How the Web Works

When individual users get on the Internet they are actually connecting to the World Wide Web (WWW or web), sometime used synonymously with Internet, the web is a system of interlinked documents located on the part of the Internet that is available to the public.

Networks

The Internet consists of the entire global network of computers. This network is made works on theclient/server model. Client/Server can describe a relationship between two computer programs. The clientcomputer requests some type of service (such as a file or database access) from the server. The servercomputer fulfills the request and transmits the results to the client over a network.

Peer-to-peer-network is a type of decentralized network where each computer on the network (peers) acts both as a client and server.

When a client computer makes a request to the server, the requested files are copied from the server to the client, this is known as downloading. The process of the page appearing in the web browser is called loading.s

Data on a network travels through what is called communication circuits. The amount of data that can be transmitted at any one time through a communication circuit is called bandwidth. Bandwidth is measured inbits.

Bits and Bytes – Computers are based on a Binary is a numbering system, consisting of two unique numbers 0 and 1. A bit is a single binary digit. A byte is made up of 8 bits.

In order to connect to any type of network a computer must have a network interface card (NIC) or network card. A cable is then run from the NIC to the server or another client computer.

In a large network a special device is used to connect the computers on the network.
There are several different types of devices used to complete this task each one has special capabilities.

  • Hubs allow for multiple computers to talk to each other all at the same time.
  • Switches are like traffic lights allowing one computer to talk another, one at a time.
  •  Routers are like switches, but also direct the data allowing for Internet connections.

There are different types of networks:

  • Local Area Network (LAN)
  • Wide Area Network (WAN)

Furthermore there are different types of network connections:

  • Cable connection
  • Wireless connection

Connecting to the Internet

In order to connect to the Internet one must first obtain an Internet service provider (ISP), who allows for access to the  network access points (NAPs) to the Internet.

In order for a computer to transmit data over a telephone or cable line, a device known as a modem is required. The modem allows for a connection to your ISP.

Go Wireless! In order to access the Internet wirelessly, a WLAN (wireless LAN) card is required and can be used in place of a NIC card. Note that a WLAN card requires that the computer accessing the network be within the range of a wireless access point.

Once connect to the Internet one can access the World Wide Web or web. The web is the part of the Internetthat is available to the public and is made up of a network of connected computers called web severs.

The web is made up of hypertext documents. Hypertext refers to text displayed on an electronic device with a reference (hyperlink) to another document that can be instantly accessed. The concept of linked hypertext is the defining foundation for the web and was conceived by Tim Berners-Lee at the CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

In 1989, Berners-Lee would make available on the Internet, the code for a hypertext server program. This program would later be installed on web (hypertext) servers and used to store files in hypertext markup language (HTML).

Since that time HTML has become the standard language for developing hypertext documents or web pages. A website is a group of related web pages, which all reside on the same web server. The homepage is the first page that displays when visiting a specific website.

In order to access information on a web server, Berners-Lee developed the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) a set of rules for exchanging files such as text, graphics/images, sound, video and other media via the web.

When a client computer sends a request it must identify a resource on the Internet or uniform resource identifier (URI) The URI is made up of two distinct parts the universal resource name (URN) and theuniversal resource locator (URL). Think of it like this, the URI is specific persons information in a contact book, the URN is the person’s name while the URL is the person’s address.

Thus, just as people have addresses to locate their homes, each web server on the Internet is given their ownInternet Protocol (IP) address. An IP address is made up of a set of four groups of numbers called octets.

Since it is difficult to remember large groups of numbers the Domain Name System (DNS) was established and Associates text-based domain names with numeric IP address assigned to a device.

top-level domain (TLD) refers to the last part of a domain name. A TLD refers to the top-level in the DNS hierarchy and identifies the website through association. The ICANN directs the designated organizations in the management of each separate TLD registry. Common TLD’s include:

  • .com
  • .org
  • .net
  • .gov
  • .edu
  • .us (or other country code)

Therefore in order to access the Internet one must know the URL of the web page or site you are trying to access. The URL consists of the specific protocols for communication transfer, the name of the web server the data is located on, and the domain name or IP Address. One example is http://wwww.getcereativetoday.com , HTTP is the protocol, www is the web server and getcreativetoday.comis the domain name.

Web Browsers

Web pages are documents written in HTML. HTML is made elements (tags) and attributes that define how and what content a web page displays. In order to display this content a special software called a web browseris required. A web browser translates HTML coding to display in a meaningful manner, with text, graphics,hyperlinks and more.

The Internet

We use it everyday to connect to friends and family, pay bills, submit assignments, watch movies, and look up the whether or just goof off. I’m speaking of course about the Internet. So, much of our daily lives takes place on the Internet it is sometimes difficult to imagine a time without it, but have you ever wondered what exactly is the Internet and when did it get started?

In simple terms the Internet is an interconnected network of computers on a global scale, which facilitate the sharing or exchange of information among its’ users.

Invention of the Internet

Although many of us could date the inception of the Internet back to the 1990’s its’ begging’s date back much further. No one group or person developed the Internet, but instead there were many organizations that help develop the methods and technologies that help lead way to the Internet we know and use today.

The foundations of the Internet began in the late 1950’s.  At the time computers only worked by batch processing, this meant that the computer could only work on one task at a time. That task had to be programmed on to punch cards. Then the system operator would take a “batch” of the programmed cards and feed them into the computer. The computer would run each task in order as they were fed in completing one at a time.

At this time in computer history, in order to store a lot of information, computers were huge and had to be stored in cooled rooms. Thus, programmers had to work remotely sending their work to the system operators to input into the computer; the indirectness of this method, lead to a lot of manual labor and bugs in the program.

In 1957, programmers had enough; a remote connection to the computer was installed, allowing direct access. Since multiple programmers now had access to the computer the concept of time-sharing was established, meaning that multiple users would share the processing power of the computer.

During the same time the United States developed the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA) in order to assure Americas lead in technology. People, only transferred information at the time.

What is Data – Data are distinct pieces of information formatted in special ways. A computer program is a collection of instructions for manipulating data. The term data is most often used to describe binary information. Binary is a numbering system, which computers are based on, and consist of two unique numbers 0 and 1.

Thus DARPA’s first priority was to establish a large-scale network of computers to execrate the transfer of information and to avoid the duplication of already existing research. This scientific network would be known as ARPANET.

At the same time three other networks were being developed

  • RAND – a military network by the RAND Corporation in the US.
  • NPL – a commercial network by the National Physical Laboratory in England
  • CYCLADES – a scientific network by the Institut de Recherche d’Informatique et d’Automatique in France.

These networks along with the ARPANET would build the foundation for what would be come the Internet.

ARPANET began in 1969 connecting four computers, one at the University of California in Los Angeles, SRI International, The University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Utah.

In order for computers to talk to each other on a network they need to follow the same set of communication rules in order to move files between computers, these rules are known as transfer protocols. The first set of protocols established was the Network Control Protocol (NCP).  Soon, the NCP was replaced by theTransmission Control Protocol (TCP). The main feature of the TCP was the verification of information from one computer to the other, verifying where it was coming from and that it was received by the correct system. The TCP also included the rules to join and end connections on the network.

In order to send a lot of information at one time through a network, information had to be broken into smallerdata packets (small chunks of information) allowing them to move through the connection faster. The data packets would then be recompiled on the receiving computer. This method of sending data on a network is called packet switching. The NPL in England, used packet switching to the fullest since being a commercial network it had a higher rate of network traffic than the other networks.

DARPA’s research was taking place during the height of the cold war, thus one its main priorities was to ensure to transfer of information in the event of an atomic attack. At the time information was sent by radio waves, which render useless in such an attack, thus a distributive network had to be established.

The French network, CYCLADES had a smaller budget than all other networks, therefore its primary focus was on the connection to other networks. To increase efficiency on their limited network, CYCLADES developed a protocol instructing computers on the network were not to intervene with the data being sent and only to work as a transfer node until the data reached the destination computer. These protocols were built onto the computer’s hardware allow for a more direct connection.

Due to the incompatibilities of other networks the CYCLADES protocols quickly inspired a new way of connecting. With the advances in network communication the phone companies offered their services by developing their own X.25 protocol, which allowed for communication access through their service for a monthly fee.

With so many networks establishing connections around the world, it wasn’t long before the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) felt the need to establish some standard methods of communication. They began by developing the Open System Interconnection (OSI), which allowed for communication to be standardized from its end. This eliminated the need for computer to access a connection through gateways, as established by DARPA’s TCP.

Who is ISO? The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) was established in 1947 with delegates from 25 countries. The organization’s goal was to develop international coordination and unification of industrial standards. Today there are 163 countries apart of the ISO. For more information see http://www.iso.org/

Using the OSI model, the TCP gave way to the TCP/IP protocol. The Internet Protocol (IP) is the rules for directing individual data packets. In combination the TCP/IP set of protocols includes a tool to simplify file transfer and to access computers that are not on the users primary network over, what we consider, the Internet. The TCP/IP would be the standard ensuring compatibility between networks.

In the 1980’s ARAPANET had more than 200 networks, with so much traffic and users, the network was divided into two. The Military Network (MILNET) would continue to be a secure network only for military research. While the Computer Science Network (CSNET) would be used by educational and research institutions. The CSNET would later merge with the National Science Foundation Network (NSFnet) to form one network that could care more traffic than had been previously. By the late 1980’s many TCP/IP networks had merged together creating the global network we think of today as the Internet.

Getting on the Internet

The 1980’s gave birth of the personal computer; thanks to advances in technology computers were now smaller, more powerful and affordable. Large companies and organizations would invest in computers and construct intranets. An intranet is a network of computers on a restricted network. This meant for example, company A had a network of computers that could only talk to computers at company A. While company B had computers who could talk to computers at company B. At this time there was no way for company A and company B computers to talk to each other.

Ray Tomlinson a researcher at ARPANET, in 1972 developed a program that could send and receive messages over a network, laying the foundation for email (electronic mail). At the time mailing listsnewsgroups(posting areas), and bulletin boards became a common method of sending information between users.

The Internet at the time was reserved for education and research. The NSF, who was overseeing the development Internet at the time, prohibited commercial use of the Internet. However, growing demand for better communication between commercial organizations, the NSF, in 1989, permitted two commercial email services allowing for limited Internet access. Finally company A could talk to company B via the Internet (an outside network).

In 1991, the NSF would finally lift the commercial ban on the Internet. To connect to the Internet the NSF developed network access points (NAPs), which would be operated by for four telecommunication companies, who sell access to large organizations called Internet service provides (ISP). Furthermore the ISP would provide access to business and individuals.

World Wide Web

The Internet consists of the entire global network of computers. When individual users get on the Internet they are actually connecting to the World Wide Web (WWW or web), sometime used synonymously with Internet, the web is a system of interlinked documents located on the part of the Internet that is available to the public.

Who runs the Internet

Since it’s conception in the late 1950’s many organizations played a part in the development of the Internet. Still today there is no central governing organization that oversees the Internet.

Instead there are several entities that work together to establish standards for the Internet. These organizations include:

  • Internet Architecture Board (IAB)
  • Internet Corporation for Assigned Number and Names (ICANN)
  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
  • Internet Society (ISOC)
  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

The most recognizable of these organizations I the W3C, which develops recommendations (standards and guidelines) and prototype technologies related to the web. The four major areas which the W3C focus on include:

  • Web Architecture
  • User Interface
  • Technology and Society
  • Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI)

Web Accessibility

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, requires that government agencies must give individuals with disabilities access to information technology that is comparable to the access available to others. The WAI, work towards creating best practices and techniques for ensuring the accessibility of content on the web.

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WordCamp KC 2012 – Main Event

Word Camp Kansas City (KC) 2012 main event took place Saturday, June 2. The event started out with muffins, yum. After a few housekeeping announcements it was time to head to our session of interest. The day and a 1/2 conference offered several of speaking sessions on a variety of WordPress topics. The speaking sessions was divided into three main tracks, designer, developer and publisher. Although each track may have been geared towards a specific group, it seemed everyone, inducing myself, would end up attending at least one session in each of the different tracks. And although I would consider myself a designer, turns out the topic I would be speaking on would fall under the publisher track, which makes sense given the topic, but more on that later. Below is a quick outline of the Word Camp KC 2012 schedule.


 

The first session of the day I planed on attending was “PSD to WordPress” presented by Kristin Falkner (@KristinCodesWP). The session was really good, she provided a sort of work flow on where to begin when moving from a mock-up to a custom theme. The question of using child themes or build from scratch came up, Kristin, said to use whatever was most comfortable for you, however she always worked from scratch to avoid confession and bloated code. She also commented how it can be helpful to create a static HTML version of the site, get it working, them break it apart for a WP theme. Interestingly this how I work, starting with a psd mockup then code from scratch, code HTML, them break up for WP theme. Some key tips I picked up from Kristin’s presentation was:

  • a hand custom field plugin called “
  • use page id’s instead of page names for certain theme styling this will prevent error if the client changes the page naming structure
  • Rockablepress is a good resource

Lastly if you want a copy of Kristin’s presentation you can view it at: PSD to WordPress prez

The next presentation I attended was “Sensational CSS: How to Show Off Your Super Sweet Skills!”, presented by Karen Arnold (@karenalma). Karen is a happiness engineer for WordPress. Her presentation was about how to create child themes by editing a custom CSS. The first the you’ll want to do is install the “safecss, this plugin comes at of an upgrade feature from WordPress.com. The “safecss” plugin allows one to override the mater theme’s CSS and creating a custom one. I always find this tricky, Karen explained that the browser extension Firebug allows one to easily find the CSS id or class names of the main theme in order to edit them. Personally, I still think this method can confuse me, because everyone has a different method of naming CSS id and classes, but if your only making simple changes, then a child them is probably quicker an easier. As for the “safecss” plugin, Karen, hinted to some new updates coming soon, including:

  • syntax highlighting
  • indentations

At the end of her presentation, Karen showed off some showcase sites from both WordPress and WordPress.com which took basic themes and customized by creating a custom theme.

At this point it was time for me to present, I could into detail about that, however I plan on making a separate post, which also includes a link to my power point. Overall, I would say the presentation went well and and I got some good feedback. I was a little nervous, since this my first speaking session outside of ones I’ve presented at on campus. I think it went well and hope to continue speaking at other events.

After my presentation, lunch was provided, this is where I began rewriting my notes into this post. The rest of this post I’ll post after the final round of presentations.

Okay, so after lunch, there was a group panel session that allowed attendees to ask questions related to WP and E-commerce, Security and Hosting. The panel included Pippin Williamson (@pippinsplugins) a plugin in developer, Tom Jenkins (@techguytom) a developer and Buddy Press expert, Calvin Robertson (@eveofcreativity) and Austin Gunter (@austingunter) from WP Engine. The MC was Josepha Haden (@JosephaHaden) who was also the one of the main event organizers. Josepha, started the panel session by introducing each of the panel members and there after would prompt questions, since the audience seemed a little sluggish after lunch to ask any of their own. A few prominent questions and answers are listed below:

  1. Favorite E-commerce plugin:
  2. Favorite Mobile Theme:
  3. Favorite Membership plugin:
  4. What to do if you get hacked?
    • Make sure you have been keeping regular updates of your site database (db)
    • Reinstall back db
    • Do a malware check at http://sucuri.net/
    • Change the wp login url with CLAU plugin
    • Lock down admin access using the Lock down WP Admin plugin
    • Don’t be afraid to check your root directory for any suspicious files that are not part of the main WP core, and delete them.
    • Also, note that deactivated plugins can cause vulnerability, don’t detective remove any none used plugins
  5. Helpful Tips:
    • Note that the WP core is more secure than ever before
    • To prevent security risks update WP install with each new update release
    • Some E-commerce plugin can cause errors for Internet Explore (IE), no real way around this, just educate your users to find a better browser (DOWN WITH IE)
    • There are some really good hosting / security management services like WP Engine
    • When looking for good plugins, WP Plugin star ratings are not reliable
    • Get involved in the WP community for help and other things, check out the WP forums

After the panel session, the afternoon speaking sessions began. I choose for my first afternoon session to attend the “Creation of Plug-in’s A-Z” presented by Jonathan Wondrusch (@bybloggers). Jonathon began his presentation by talking about his background, which turns out to be similar to mine. He started building websites in his teens, but would later go to college studying 3D computer Animation. After graduating he worked various jobs in animation, but continued to develop for the web. Currently he develops custom assets such as plugins for bloggers and other web designers. Jonathon’s talk was interesting because it focused on the workflow to creating WP plugins and how it compared to creating animations.

Animation workflow for animator:

  • Shot assignment
  • Research (consider poses, video self, use models)
  • Planning (sketching, thumbnails)
  • Blocking (key poses)
  • Refinishing (adding animation0
  • Polish (add details, eye blink, hair movement)

Web Developer workflow:

  • Creative Brief
  • Research ( what is already out there? what are others doing)
  • Planing (how will this be developed and used? What is the best method for making this?)
  • Alpha (pilot of site)
  • Beta (live pilot of site)
  • Official Launch

Jonathan points out that even though the workflow is the similar the amount of time for each is different. In animation there is a lot of money on the line, if the project fails so 30-40% of the time is spent in planning and research to make sure everything is just so before costly work is started. However, in the web development work (or I’d even say designer world) only 10% of time is spent on planning and research. Ultimately the little time given to these areas can cause problems down the road, like going over budget or not producing exactly what the client wanted. If more time is put into planning and research then such problems could be avoided and remember to keep your project simple.

Jonathan also provided some helpful tips for getting started with plugin development:

  • It’s really no harder than developing themes
  • Use the WP Codex
  • Take breaks from your projects, so you can look at it with fresh eyes
  • Follow the WP Plugin Best Practices
  • Great artist steel (don’t reinvent the wheel, see what’s been done and then improve upon it)
  • Stay organized
  • Comment Comment Comment in your CODE
  • Handel errors gracefully
  • Consider how it will work with different themes

The next session I attended was ” Responsive Design” presented by Justin Kopepasah (@kopepasah) and was probably the most helpful for me because it offered a lot of simple tips and practices in theme development that solved a lot of problems and makes you want to go “well duh, why didn’t I think of that”. Justin talk was about developing WP themes that respond instead of creating a separate mobile site. Creating a separate mobile site not only doubles a web developer/designers workload, but you are now controlling what type of viewer sees what content on your site, and more than likely a mobile user, will see less. This argument about not showing users content just because they are viewing from a mobile device is a hot and heavy one on the net, and I would agree as a web user, I hate it when I can’t see all the site options from my iPhone. Thus, Justin’s answer was to create a responsive design, that allowed for all users to see all content all time.

The key to developing a well designed responsive site is to use percentages, but at this point I was getting nervous because percentages scare me and how do I know what percent do I need, and what if I want to use a basic grid? Well, here comes the “well duh” moment, Justin explained that you start off by setting up a grid layout, 960 for example. Consider your sizes for your columns and such and then use the this magic formula:


target divided by content equals results
 

This formula makes perfect sense and why didn’t I think of it? Why did I never hear about it online when I searched responsive design? The way it works is say for example you are following a 960 grid and your content area is 540, you take 540/960 and the results is 0.5625, thus the percentage is 56.25%. The question did come up why not round, well it turns out each browser rounds slightly different, so using the entire percentage value (up to 12 decimal places) yields the best results. The same formula is used for type as well, consider your base (content) font size, then divide by your target size the end decimal value should be used in your CSS using EM units.

Justin’s other tips included:

  • Set the main container to use max-width of grid this allows to never go over the size of the original grid layout
  • Develop your media (images, video and etc.) at the maximum size, in the example case no larger than 960 pixels, then set the CSS to use max-width = 100%, this allows the browser to scale the image
  • Note that modern browser do a good job at scaling images
  • Delete any width and height settings in the image tag in the html
  • Discourage the use the !important rule in CSS, if your using this something else is wrong.
  • Use the media queries to override the main style, mainly for viewing on phones, otherwise the basic formula will work for all other devices.

The last session I attended was “Custom Theme Creation” presented by Chip Bennett (@chip_bennett), who happens to be on the WP theme review committee. In his presentation, Chip provided some helpful tips to consider when developing themes, based off what the theme review committee look for. The main key stressed during this session was to keep it simple, and to know what elements go into a theme and what should be a custom plugin. Chip went into a lot of dev talk here about what scripts should go where when developing themes, the main things to keep in mind are:

  • Don’t clutter up the header.php
  • Put all call backs in the functions.php
  • Create a filter in the functions.php for custom classes
  • Comment forms before action hooks
  • Don’t create theme templates, if they are used in your theme
  • Things to put in plugin and not theme:
    • Fave icons (this way it doesn’t change with themes)
    • Google Analytics
    • SEO meta tags
    • Core bundle scripts

And that was pretty much the end of the conference, after the last session the whole event just sort of dissolved. Attendees were asked to turn in their lanyard in return for their commemorative t-shirt. Overall, I learned a lot and met a lot of interesting people, however, I would have to say that the event could have been managed a little more professionally. The details of where the event would be and the schedule weren’t provided until late April. Also, the communication with the speakers about how it was all going to play out was limited. Then at the actual event, there was little guidance on what was where, it seemed everyone just kind of winged it. The opening keynotes, was more less some quick tips and ate into the first speaking sessions time, wasn’t on the schedule, and some didn’t even know it was going to take place. The same for the wrap up for the day, no real end details. Also, the speakers had no introductions and limited guidance on when to present. When it was time to present we simply when to our designated locations plugged in our computers, and waited at least 3-5 minutes after the session was to start to begin, without any introductions to the audience. There was always an event organizer around to help and ask questions, but it seemed kind of causal for a conference, but that may be my opinion, having organized events like this in the past, and having done them much differently. Overall though I think the event was worth going to and hope the organizers will continue to put on quality Word Camps in the future.

WordCamp KC 2012 – Hackthon

This weekend I am not only attending, but also speaking at Word Camp Kansas City (KC). Word Camp is a regionally hosted event for WordPress (WP) users. The event kicked off last night (Friday, June 1) with a kick off party and hackathon.

It was the first time I ever participated in a hackathon, so it was kind of interesting. The hackathon basically is a collaborative group of designers, developers and publishers who work within a few hours to help re-design, develop and publish a website for a non-profit organization, in this case our platform had to be WordPress, given it wasps a Word Camp event. The organization that Word Camp KC would be building a site for was Maison De Naissance , which is a birthing home in Haiti. They wanted a more organized site, which would highlight their three main goals of providing access, quality and resources.

I got to participate at the designer’s table, where developed a list of possible free themes for the site and organized a folder of possible images to use for the site. The images were selected from hundreds of files in which the client had provided. We stuck with a free theme, because the goal was to use as much open source content available and only tweak as needed.Once the designers made our suggestions we passed it on to the developer group to work on, while the publishers would work simultaneously  to place all the content on the site. While working at the designer table it was interesting to hear for the others that most of them, like myself, typically do freelance projects, where they take on all roles of designer, developer and publisher, so it was kind of werid to just pick out pictures and themes and let the other groups take it from there.

The event ran pretty smoothly and left me eager for the next mornings main event. Sadly, I had to leave after this, so I didn’t get to see the end results, but I hear it turned out very well.

 

Be a Nerd, Geek and Dweeb

This past week I attended the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), in Austin Texas. I was attending because I was one of 1200 staff and faculty members from around the country that received a NISOD award in excellence. My award was for teaching excellence.

Although much of the conference was focused on administration development, such as how to make use of data such as retention and graduation rates there were several sessions that I found very informative and entertaining. When I got to the conference early Sunday, I was a bit overwhelmed by the 120 page conference program that I received at registration, never have I gotten such a large program at a conference, but it did provide a quick synopsis for each speaking session, I found that very helpful for deciding which session I would attend. I also liked the fact that the entire program could then be downloaded from their website via PDF, allowing me to save it to my IPad and not having to lug around the actual book. The first session I attended was the Orientation, which helped first time attendees acquaint themselves to the conference and how to read the program.

The next event was the Excellence Award Kick-off, which is where the Excellence award winners went to mingle and get their award. It was held at the Four Seasons hotel across from the Convention Center, which was on the other side from my hotel, I had the walk the distance, and lets just say it was hot in Austin. Once you arrived to the ballroom for the reception as you walked towards the ballroom doors, their was a group of individuals waiting to dawn you with your medal (award) and clap as you walked on into the ballroom, almost like receiving a lei as you enter Hawaii.  The reception was nice and I got to meet up with some of my OCCC colleagues who also won excellence awards in their subjects. After the excellence reception it was back to the convention center for the opening session.

Monday was the first full day of the conference and began with a general session where the keynote speaker was Singer/Songwriter Larry Gatlin, who now teachers at the Entertainment Technology department at Guildford Technical Community College in North Carolina. Although, it may have not been much to do with education, except how he went from Grammy winner to teacher at a community college, Mr. Gaatlin was an excellent speaker full of energy and humor, and we also got to listen to him sing.

My first break out session on Monday was one presented by Larry Miller, Chief Academic Officer of Snead State Community College in Alabama. Mr. Miller presented on Social Media and how to use it effectively for education. He talked about using twitter and how to become popular on it, after the session he went on to tweet his own 1000th tweet. He provided links to online sites that would essentially grade you twitter account such as Twitter Grader, which I tried on my own twitter account and got the following rating:

My Twitter Grade of 53
I suppose with a grade like 53, I should be striving to do more, which I hope to improve my score over the summer.The next session I went to was over HTML 5 and how it could change the education platform. This session was presented by William Zobrist, Director, Emerging and Online Product Strategy from Pearson Learning Solutions; aside from educators and administrators many sessions were presented by companies that partner with educational organizations such as Adobe or in this case Pearson Publishing. This talk was about what HTML 5 can do and how it will change the web as we know it. I defiantly see benefits using HTML 5 and would suggest if you are planning to learn web design or are a current web designer you need to learn HTML5. Although no one browser full supports HTML 5 at the moment, learning it now will give you an edge over others when it does become a standard, (which hopefully will be soon, sine it’s so cool).

In the exhibitor’s hall there were several schools and companies promoting their programs and offerings to educators. I love exhibitor halls at conferences that’s were all the freebies are! I got several nice bags and of course highlighters, usb drives, Frisbee and even a stuff monster from Monster.com. One school had a booth were you could make your own inner geek, using cut outs. It sounds a bit childish, but they were getting a big crowd, everyone wanted to make a geek of their own. Once you made a geek, you were asked to take a picture of you geek around the conference and show him off. Even OCCC had a booth, which happened to be a popular spot. Their booth was giving away an IPad and they had a nice TV running informational videos about the college. Tim Whisnehunt, who was one of OCCC booth sitters, showed me the new TV/Monitor Instructional Media has, which they were using at the conference. The TV/Monitor was not only a crisp HD resolution but also a touch screen and could be used partially like a smart board, very nice.

Later in the day I went on a session on Web 2.0 Technologies presented by Political Science Professor Monoucher Khosrowshahi from Tyler Junior College in Texas. His presentation focused that on the idea of two types of educational formats “Push and Pull”, push is where we shove information down our students throats using a lecture model, while pull is where we organize information, set goals and objectives and allow the students to pull the information themselves, from sources they find or we provide. The pull model allows students more control of the learning process, promotes collaboration and makes the teacher a facilitator and no longer the star of the show. The pull model is enhanced with web 2.0 technology primary with social media. Since the presenter was a political science instructor he gave many examples were the current revolution in Egypt was set in motion and organized through the use of Facebook and with the help of Google whom provided a means to access the internet, once the government banned certain access to the internet. I found this very interesting that these social media sites helped change and revolutionize an entire country, it makes me think are we really using this medium to it’s fullest potential?

The next session I went to was on “YouTube” and how to use it in the classroom. The presenter was Albert Groccia, Professor of Mathematics at Valencia Community College in Florida. He described not only how YouTube can add humor to a classroom but also illustrate a point. He provided some links to several YouTube videos that he used in class including one I found very useful that was about motivation . Mr. Groccia also provided some resources on how to capture video from YouTube, since as we all know the internet is not forever, and some videos can be taken down, and as presenters and teachers we don’t always have access to the internet, thus saving these videos can be useful. KeepVid is one of my personal fave sites to use to capture YouTube videos. Mr. Groccia also pointed out that YouTube videos are a great way to refocus students during a class period, since studies show that students attention drops off every 15-18 minutes, using a YouTube video in-between the lecture can help students refocus and get engaged.

The last session on Monday that I attended had to do with Adobe CS 5.5, it was a quick overview and most attendees had only ever used Photoshop. Aside from the overview I did discover that Dreamweaver now has built in HTML5, Jquery and iOS templates now. Flash also now includes mobile code snippets that allow you to quickly create actions with touch screen capabilities.

Tuesday the conference began with breakfast followed by more exploring of the exhibitor’s hall. Lunch was provided at the general session where Keynote speaker Rod Risley, Executive Director of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Mr. Risley’s speech was quite inspiring. In his speech he questioned why “does our country promote mediocrity?” he also poised the question and challenge

“If liking science makes you a nerd, if your into technology your a geek and if you like school in any way your a deweb. If this is the case I challenge you to be a NERD, GEEK and Dweeb! For it will be these individuals that will make the future happen.”

Wednesday was the last day of the conference. The first session I went to was on the use of Rich Media in the classroom presented by Truman College (IL) Chemistry teacher, Joy Walker. This session primarily discussed how to create podcast, videos and even free blogs to help provide supplemental instruction to your students. For creating quick podcasts, which are just audio recordings can be done easily with Audacity which is a free audio software for both MAC and PC. For creating blogs the most used media was WordPress which one can create a quick blog from WordPress.com or host their own (as I do) by downloading WordPress package at WordPress.org, the presenter also provided more information on her website at justonly.com.

The last breakout session of the day was a demonstration of Prezi. Prezi is an alternative to PowerPoint, not only can one get a free account but it is supper easy to use. The idea is to layer, rotate and zoom content, which focuses the presenter to get away from linear slides and focus only on the key points. If you haven’t used prezi you really need check it out.

The conference ended with a final general session where all the NISOD winners were highlighted and thanked for their hard work and efforts as well as their achievements of excellence. Not all of the 1200 winners appeared in the video compilation that was shown, but I was excited to see that a snip-bit of my video interview was included.

"Up From Slavery" – Required Reading For All

Recently in one of my graduate courses I had to read the book “Up From Slavery” by Booker T. Washington. Although, I had read about Booker T. Washington in the past, this book really opened my eyes as to some of the reasons American’s have a certain view on education and professional trades. After reading the book I find that the way in which people viewed education and behave hasn’t really changed in the past 130 years or so. What amazes me about this book is that I haven’t been required to read it before. I feel that not only is it a great read for those who will go on into the field of education, it should also be required reading for middle school students, for the book provides insight as to why education is important and what hardship many endured to be able to obtain the educational opportunities that many students today take for granted.

As part of the reading assignment I was to write a 400 word paper describing my thoughts on the book and how it relates to Career Technology Education, below is my paper:

“Even then I had a strong feeling that what our people most needed was to get a foundation in education” –Booker T. Washington

The quote above is perhaps more relevant today as it was over 100 hundred years ago. After reading Mr. Washington’s book I cannot help but feel a little disappointed. Mr. Washington’s optimistic outlook throughout the book continued to illustrate that although times were tough things were getting better everyday. That in fact more and more were going off to seek an education and that things could only improve, it would not be over night, however, but in time.

Here it is some 130 years later, and we still are up against the same struggles that Mr. Washington faced, regarding the ignorance of people. One comparison can be made between our students who sport their $300 iPhone or $80 Nikes but have not had a decent meal in days, to that of the family Mr. Washington visited who only had one dinner fork but a $60 organ in the Conner of their one room shack.

Another disconcerting fact is that while Mr. Washington state

“The temptation often is to run each individual through a certain educational mould, regardless of the condition of the subject or the end to be accomplished”

This temptation, I am afraid the school system has fallen into, today it is all about test and passing numbers, rather than the actually applicable knowledge that the students get.

Although I found myself somewhat disappointed by all this, I would stop and consider how Mr. Washington would feel had he been able to be here today. I am sure his optimism would show through. He would feel that we as a nation has been able to over come many obstacles that faced us during his time. He would also be amazed and overjoyed as to the many opportunities in which all people, regardless of race or gender, are given to obtain an education.

He would also agree with us teachers, that there is still much work to do in improving the educational system. But as Mr. Washington mentioned throughout his book, things do not happen “over night”. If anything his trail with the brick making only shows is perseverance.

Although Mr. Washington’s name or school may not be recognizable by many Career Tech teachers, it is obvious that his teaching model is being used today. It was Mr. Washington’s desire to teach his students to study “actual things” instead of mere books alone and to provide “skill and knowledge” which in return could add “ something to the wealth and the comfort of the community.”

Digital Design for a Global Audience

I recently had the opportunity to present at the 13th Annual Oklahoma Global Education Conference. The conference itself is to help community college educators provide more global aspects to students learning. This two day event was spectacular and very informative.
My presentation was entitled “Digital Design for a Global Audience”.

As the world becomes more connected than ever, digital designers are faced with the task of designing content that can communicate their message to individuals around the world. Because cultures around the world interpret verbal expressions, images and colors differently, designing for a global audience can be very trying for a designer. In this session we will examined some of the different cultural design trends, problems and solutions in digital design, taking a close look at both web and video game design.

Digital Design lends itself to a global audience, simply because of the type of media it is, it becomes more accessible.
When preparing a global design, designers should consider cultural issues, including:

  • Language
  • Symbols and Icons
  • Color
  • Stereotypes
  • Religion

Below is the PowerPoint presentation I prepared for on Digital Design for a Global Audience

Siggraph 2010 – Day 4

Day four of Siggraph began at the exhibitor’s hall. I I got the chance to look into some motion capturing devices, there are a lot to choose from and I really need to some research as to which device does what. In efforts to get one of the Pixar’s limited edition teapots, I manged to snag a seat at the Pixar’s booth early in the day. I sat through one of their demos on Renderman, which proved to be very interesting. Renderman is Pixar’s own rendering application, which includes advanced features for creating visual effects, and the core rendering technology has been proven on some of the most demanding 3D productions ever realized. The demo talked about the REYES algorithm (which stands for Renders Everything You Ever Saw), within Renderman, which focuses slicing 3D primitives into grids, where only the geometry in the camera’s view will be rendered and all the rest discarded. After the discussion, I got my teapot.

I looked around the job fair for a while, the lines were huge and despite the fact that no company was actively hiring a slew of individuals were there showing off their demos and portfolios.

Later in the afternoon I got the opportunity to visit the Disney Studio workshop. There they were having all sorts of sessions. One that I got to be apart of was Animator who animated Dr. Facilier, the evil voodoo magician in Disney’s The Frog Prince. He talked about his process in character development. He also went on to talk about the difficulty of animating an established character, and still making it your own, such in the case of his latest project Winnie the Pooh, where is lead animator on Piglet.

After playing a few games in the Disney studio area I was ready to call it a day.