Tuesday, June 09, 2009

One thing leads to another

Office On Saturday I sat down and tried to build a project dashboard, a collaborative space which takes more than RSS feeds. I didn't make much progress (so if you have any dashboard ideas, I'm listening), because I soon got distracted and started playing around with Google Docs.

Revisiting a discussion we had on Friday, I started thinking about how annoying it is that Google Documents don't have any notifications (beyond RSS feeds for public documents), but since Google Spreadsheets do, I started playing around with the dashboard possibilities a Google spreadsheet offers. This is something I may revisit sometime, but on Saturday it didn't take me long to get distracted by the statistical functions. It turns out that Google Spreadsheets has most of the functionality that Open Office Calc has, as well as a few things that it doesn't have, such as motion charts.

You may remember that in March I proposed a framework for statistics teaching in our degree courses. It's now apparent that this isn't going to happen, for a variety of reasons. Instead, we're going to continue with a very low level key skills first year statistics course for all students and any higher level courses will be delivered by specialist modules in individual degree streams (or not).

This means that I need to rethink once again my statistics teaching strategy. The learning curve for R is simply too high for a first year course which does not lead on to subsequent levels, and I can't afford to invest the time personally to explore R if I'm not using it for teaching. (And whatever anyone says, R does have a steep learning curve). My request to install Open Office declined by the University, and there's no way I'm teaching this course using Excel 2007 again. All of which means I've been pushed into the arms of Google, which may or may not be a good thing. Certainly our students won't have an issue using Google Spreadsheets as this follows on directly from the other Google components they use in their PLEs the previous term.

As part of my learning process, I've set up a scratchpad where I can play with the tools and think about presentation and delivery of the modified course. StatsBytes is on hold at present while I decide whether to junk it (I probably don't have the time to develop an uncourse for this single module, the scratchpad will be the alternative), or turn it into a GoogleStats uncourse.

Never did build that dashboard.