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Educational Solutions blog

SPSS install

I was installing SPSS on a virtual lab machine and came across two problems. After the install, the Windows Installer coordinator would hang. After applying the solution found here and on Microsoft Support, the install went off much better. Unfortunately, licensing would fail.

“Changing the LSHOST System Environment Variable value from “no-net” to the IP Address or Hostname on the machine housing the Sentinel License Manager” seems to have solved the problem, as described on the IBM support site.

Low-vision apps

Magnifier magnifying text.

People with low vision can sometimes need text to be magnified to extremely large sizes. Image credit: bspence81 @ pixabay

I’ve been looking at apps to help someone with low-vision lately– increasing the size of text and icons on the screen and such–on Windows and Android.  It’s been somewhat difficult, as my visual impairment isn’t as extreme, so I don’t really have a point of reference. Some of the apps seem really good, but cost money for full functionality.
A couple of the apps I’ve looked at include Big Launcher, which seems good like it would be pretty good; it costs $9.99 in the US. I also looked at Claria Zoom, which seems really useful, but costs $3.99 per month.
Continue reading: Low-vision apps


One of the groups on campus hosted a game show-type event and needed buzzers. We briefly looked into making iClickers work as buzzers without success, but thought “There must be an app for that!” Indeed, there are apps for that. My student found I Buzzed First, but it turns out it’s not available on the US app stores.

Here’s a link to Android apps (and other buzzers) and here are the a few we found for iOS (we have iPads we could use for this):

Sync Buzzer for Android worked great on my home network, but didn’t work on campus with our network, though it did work with my phone as a wireless hotspot. It allows several people to use an Android phone as a buzzer and can keep a tally of how many correct answers a player or team got.

We finally settled on the Wireless Eggspert (Amazon, $54.29), which is pretty cool. You can have it randomly choose one of six contestants to answer, or they can be used as buzzers, where the first person to buzz in has to answer the question in 5-30 seconds (timed on the Eggspert).

If you just need a gameshow soundboard, there’s Ultimate Buzzer on the Apple App store; this one on the Play store is more like a game multi-tool.

It looks like there’s one for android and operated through Chrome on the Chrome store.


Mathematica tech support

The past couple days I’ve had a few requests for help involving Mathematica. It turns out this problem is not just had on earth, but in space as well:

Loaded onto [astronaut] Foale’s now-inaccessible computer was an off-the-shelf technical computing software system called Mathematica, which Foale has used for many years to perform calculations involving higher math. Thinking that Mathematica could shed some light on some of the tasks necessary to set Mir back in order, he asked that a backup of his hard drive be retrieved from his home and sent up to Mir on the next supply rocket. Installation onto the new computer, however, required a new password–and that meant a quick phone call to Wolfram Research, Inc., makers of Mathematica. The NASA ground crew contacted Allison Fry, a Customer Service representative at Wolfram Research, and Mathematica was soon up and running again in orbit.

Wolfram Research

Mathematica helps astronauts, but even astronauts need tech support. Don’t you just want to learn how to use Mathematica now?


Snapchat just changed its name to Snap and came out with a new glasses-type device called Spectacles. *Queue the curmudgeon* Unfortunately, they’ve completely neglected the percentage of the population (more than you’d think) that wears corrective spectacles, which is too bad. It would be neat to have a camera on my glasses that could take photos or videos. Imagine having such a thing constantly record, like Tivo, so that when you witnessed an accident, you’d have instant replay. You could prove you saw bigfoot, or a rainbow, or a UFO.

Kidding aside, it seems that corrective glasses wearers are often an afterthought.

Be inclusive. Design for everyone.

Or at least everyone who can afford your product.

Innovative ideas for mobiles

I just heard about two interesting innovations. The thingCHARGER and Reviveaphone. Both are thoughtful solutions to problems people have. These are not really ground-breaking technologies, but they are creative solutions to somewhat common problems. I personally know people who have had their phones immersed and I’d be willing to bet that 80% of the people on campus have needed a charger for their phone.

This makes me wonder: How do you classify something as innovative? While these are new ideas, they aren’t so radical that someone would say, “I never would have thought of that.” So what is innovation? I think innovation is taking the next step to improve some aspect of life, whether that’s learning something new, completing a task, or some kind of process.

Web page accessibility

Earlier, I posted about OpenDyslexic, a font that makes it easier for a person with dyslexia to read. While I don’t advise anyone to change their course materials to use the font, they should certainly be aware of it.

People who create, post or publish anything online should also be aware of other issues with fonts or typefaces. WebAIM has a great article about typography and making it easier for people to read.

ChemicalSams on open internet testing

Aaron Sams, the Woodland Park educator who has been flipping his instruction for years, discusses the four or five kinds of students he has in his classes, based on how they use the world wide web for taking tests (or don’t).

Basically, there are students who know how to use the tools, students who don’t know how to use web-based tools and students who just don’t care. Sams doesn’t discuss student cheating, but his conclusions and reflections address other problems I think every teacher has.

Two of his points were especially poignant:

2. I really need to change the way I assess my students.  The Purists, The Google Challenged, and The Disinterested have not benefitted from open-internet tests.  I need a better way to assess the understanding of the Google Challenged and the Disinterested, and I need to be able to explore the upper limits of The Purists.
3. My students continue to treat tests as a means to acquire the sufficient number of points to obtain the letter grade that will keep their parents off of their backs.  They do not treat them as the diagnostic tool needed to help me determine what a student knows and can do.

This was my problem in school. Most often, I didn’t really care about what I was learning, I just wanted a grade that would demonstrate my “mastery” of the subject and keep future opportunities open to me. What must be done to truly engage a student like me or one who doesn’t even care enough to try on tests?

Student Research

I recently read about an interaction between employers and a college professor. The professor asked what the employers look for when hiring. In essence, the employers said they look for real world experience.

Not their GPA.
Not their test scores or transcripts.
Their what-have-you-done files…
Providing real experience has become the task of the school, and it’s one that has barely been embraced.

via Do your graduates have a what-they-have-done file? | Dangerously Irrelevant.

That’s not quite true. Here at CC, we want to increase student research and faculty/student collaboration. Part of the glory of the block plan is that students can go into the field and do research to generate a “what-have-you-done” file.

MOOC Students Who Got Offline Help Scored Higher, Study Finds – The Chronicle of Higher Education

This really isn’t news, per se, but it is proof of something our friends in the Writing Center have known for a long time. I suspect that students in any class, whether online or offline, will benefit from getting help outside class…

For online learners who took the first session of “Circuits & Electronics,” the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s hallmark MOOC, those who worked on course material offline with a classmate or “someone who teaches or has expertise” in the subject did better than those who did not, according to a new paper by researchers at MIT and Harvard University.

The research, published this week by the journal Research & Practice in Assessment

via MOOC Students Who Got Offline Help Scored Higher, Study Finds - Wired Campus - The Chronicle of Higher Education.