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*ITT CONNECTION * Vol. 1,  Issue 23 * Thursday, November 18, 1999*
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Welcome to ITT CONNECTION, a roundup of issues, ideas and job aids
distributed the first and third weeks of each month to readers of
INSIDE TECHNOLOGY TRAINING (http://www.ittrain.com).


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THIS ISSUE:
1. How to Help Someone Use a Computer
2. Get Vertical with Your Keyboard
3. Interfaces of the Century
4. Checking Trainees' Fingerprints
5. Synchronous Distance Learning
6. URL Grab Bag
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1. HOW TO HELP SOMEONE USE A COMPUTER
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There are still people left in the world who don't know how to use
computers, and when they come to work at your company, they are
undoubtedly expected to learn from you. In reality, however, they
are probably more likely to learn from the person at the next desk.
     So you may be pleased to know of this resource. "How to Help
Someone Use a Computer" is an article by Phil Agre, an associate
professor of information studies at UCLA. If you are active on
emailing lists, you may know Agre as editor of the Red Rock Eater
News Service and a connoisseur of cheap pens.
     Agre's article lists 10 points the would-be computer helper
needs to remember -- e.g., "By the time they ask you for help,
they've probably tried several different things. As a result, their
computer might be in a strange state. This is natural."
     This is followed by 10 rules the computer helper ought to
follow -- e.g., "Whenever they start to blame themselves, blame the
computer, no matter how many times it takes, in a calm,
authoritative tone of voice. If you need to show off, show off your
ability to criticize the bad interface. When they get nailed by a
false assumption about the computer's behavior, tell them their
assumption was reasonable. Tell *yourself* that it was reasonable."
     I doubt anybody reading this newsletter NEEDS the lessons in
Agre's article, but it is a delightful refresher. And since Agre
allows copying it for noncommercial purposes, you may want to make
it available to employees who are likely to be asked for help. Find
a link to it at http://dlis.gseis.ucla.edu/people/pagre/. While
you're there, look around at some of his other articles. From his
criticisms of public relations to his commentaries on education,
this guy is a thought-provoking as well as useful resource.

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2. GET VERTICAL WITH YOUR KEYBOARD
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At the Web site of the National Writers Union (http://www.nwu.org)
you will find a link marked "Health and Safety." You may not think
of writing as a particularly dangerous occupation, but if you follow
the link, you'll find articles on repetitive strain injury (RSI),
which is no joke to professional writers.
     All computer users should know about the risks of RSI. For many
of them, it is a question of livelihood as well as health. The
National Writers Union site has a lot of RSI resources for public
consumption, and you may want to go to the Web site and see what you
can find to use with your trainees.
     Beware. RSI is potentially a worker's compensation issue. The
National Writers Union, which is a labor union (it is officially
part of the UAW), is not at all afraid to discuss such issues. But
management can be easily panicked by it, fearing there may be a
great reservoir of strain injuries waiting to be claimed if somebody
raises the awareness level. Proceed carefully.
     Ergonomists at Cornell University, publishing in the
PROCEEDINGS OF THE HUMAN FACTORS AND ERGONOMICS SOCIETY 43RD ANNUAL
MEETING, found that wrist angles stayed within the lowest risk zone
(for carpal tunnel syndrome injury) 71 percent of the time with a
vertical keyboard and 44 percent with a traditional keyboard. They
found forearm movements stayed in the lowest risk zone 78 percent of
the time with a vertical keyboard and 25 percent of the time with a
traditional keyboard. They made these measurements on 12 female,
right-handed experienced touch typists with a traditional keyboard
and a keyboard configured as two vertical halves, which you type on
as if playing a concertina, only without the squeezing.
     You can find a press release about their research at
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Nov99/vertical.keyboard.ssl.
html. [Note: The URL is too long to fit on one line. To make it
work, you have to copy the "html" part of the expression and paste
it just after the dot that follows the "ssl" part. Sorry.] The press
release page also has a photo of the vertical keyboard in use, as
well as links to a slide show presentation on it and other human
factors and ergonomics research sites.

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3. INTERFACES OF THE CENTURY
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At one time or another, you have undoubtedly reached your
frustration limit in trying to help trainees navigate an interface
that was apparently untouched by human hands (or a human mind)
during development. So it is interesting to know that Bell Labs
tested 16 different button arrangements for the touch-tone telephone
pad before introducing it in 1963. In addition to the numerous
arrangements of buttons, they tested button size, push resistance
and surface contour. Now that's attention to usability.
     These facts are from an article in MIT TECHNOLOGY REVIEW,
"Interfaces: The Century's Top 10," by Deborah Kreuze. The article
cites the loudspeaker, the aforementioned touch-tone telephone, the
steering wheel, the magnetic-stripe card, the traffic light, the
remote control, the cathode-ray tube, the liquid crystal display,
the mouse/graphical user interface and the barcode scanner.
     The capsule histories of each of these interfaces is
fascinating and will interest anyone concerned with how people
interact (or are forced to deal with) systems. Did you realize that
the driving force behind the remote control was a Zenith executive's
hatred of commercials? The article appears in its entirely at
http://www.techreview.com/articles/nov99/kreuze.htm.

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4. CHECKING TRAINEES' FINGERPRINTS
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There is an interesting characteristic of certain kinds of distance
learning that probably became apparent to your trainees even before
it did to you: IT'S REALLY EASY TO HAVE SOMEONE ELSE TAKE THE TEST
FOR YOU.
     A pair of companies, Arista Knowledge Systems(TM) and
DigitalPersona(TM), announced (according to their press release)
"the first e-Learning management system to confirm users' identity
by reading their fingerprints." They said the system can be
implemented at a cost of under $300 per user and that it would be
available before the end of the year.
     The fingerprint identification works with Arista's Accredix(TM)
e-Learning management system, which is described as a "scalable,
open software platform which manages, delivers and tracks all forms
of digital content for e-Learning, including text, video, graphics,
audio, CBT and web-based content."
     You can find the two companies at http://www.aristasys.com and
http://www.digitalpersona.com, respectively.

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5. SYNCHRONOUS DISTANCE LEARNING
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At one end of the spectrum, there is the traditional classroom. At
the other end, there is self-paced distance learning. In the middle
you can find synchronous distance learning, which is the term I
would use to describe live Web-based classes. It operates like a
classroom, with a live instructor, but the students are attending
via their computers from remote locations.
     Some organizations develop and administer synchronous distance
learning in-house, but you can now buy it from vendors, too. Global
Knowledge Network Inc. claims to be "the first major independent IT
training company to offer live, interactive online networking
courses." The company calls their classes interactive distance
learning (IDL) programs, which may sound a little presumptuous to
developers of interactive WBT.
     The students in Global's IDL classes get a live audio
presentation from the instructor, and they can view slides, text, or
other documents simultaneously on their screens. The audio
connection is two-way, and students can signal the instructor via
keyboard commands so they can ask questions. They can ask their
questions aloud "in front of the class" or privately. There are also
white boards and a chat screen, and students can address their
remarks to each other as well as to the instructor. The classes are,
of course, held on a schedule.
     The system requirements include IDL client software, a 28.8
kbps or better Internet connection, Windows 95, 98 or NT, a Pentium
133 or higher, 64 MB or more of RAM, Netscape Navigator 4.0 or
Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later, a headset with microphone,
a 16-bit sound card, a 800 x 600 screen with 256 colors, and 30 MB
of free disk space. You can learn more about Global Knowledge's IDL
courses (there are three, all on networking and telecommunications)
at its Web site: http://am.globalknowledge.com/idl/index.html.

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6. URL GRAB BAG
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I click on a lot of underlined blue text in the two weeks it takes
me to compile ITT CONNECTION, and I often run across sites I want to
bring to your attention. When I say, "run across," that's what
I mean. I've looked at these but haven't tested them, nor am I
endorsing them. Treat my referrals as leads, not recommendations.

EAVESDROP ON A PRICING DISCUSSION
Last year, Ohio State University's Distance Education Pricing and
Policy Task Force issued a report (called the "Cassady Report") on
how distance education should be priced at the university. The
university put the report online for review by faculty and staff. If
you want some insight into how universities are thinking about this
stuff, it's an open page.
http://telr.ohio-state.edu/faculty/de/cassady.cfm

INSTANT TECHNICAL REFERENCE
Books24x7.com is a library of hundreds of the latest IT technical
books from the most highly regarded publishers (like John Wiley &
Sons, O'Reilly and MIT Press). The advertisement-free books are
fully searchable, you can bookmark items, and members of your work
team can annotate the books for each other. The fee is $199 per year
per seat, but the Web site offers a seven-day free trial.
http://www.books24x7.com

UNDERSTANDING STRESS
"Stress and Your Brain" is an article by John D. MacArthur that
gives a good biological explanation of stress. It seems to me to be
detailed and up-to-date. Find a link to it at:
http://www.brain.com/

THE RADICAL IMPOSSIBILITY OF TEACHING
"Ignorance is about resistance. It is about the desire to think and
act in certain ways, most of which are rooted in a conscious refusal
to engage with processes of inner reflection." These lines are from
an essay by Ron Burnett, president of Emily Carr Institute of Art
Design, called "The Radical Impossibility of Teaching." It is about
the definitions of student and teacher and what Burnett perceives as
the need to change them. Maybe not entirely relevant to adult
education, but nevertheless engaging.
http://www.eciad.bc.ca/~rburnett/rad.html

WORKSHOP ON WEB DESIGN
Jakob Nielsen, whom regular readers of ITT CONNECTION will recognize
as the author of the ALERTBOX series, is running a "visioneering"
workshop in New Orleans, December 11, to predict long-term trends on
the Web and their implications for web design. He put a seat in the
workshop up for auction on eBay. The bidding closed on November 11,
but if you want to see how it went, it may still be up by the time
you get this.
http://cgi.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=192418338

====================================================================
Thanks for reading ITT CONNECTION.
Let's take a short break now and reconvene here in two weeks.
====================================================================

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