Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WWW Drive

All the files I have generated in the course of my Master's Degree program are located on Google Drive. Sometimes this is required because there will be collaborative writing or editing of documents, or because an instructor wishes to leave comments on a document. Until recently, I have been able to host web files from Google Drive as well. This was really convenient - I could set up the folder structure to deliver images, script files (CSS, JavaScript), and what-have-you, and have an index.html file as a starting point. I was not building websites per se, but wanting to occasionally present web information in HTML format. Last year Google stopped hosting files, and I knew I wouldn't be able to do anything about it until this summer. There were a lot of broken links out there for me to fix!

If I were hosting complete websites, the normal approach would be to pay a hosting service for some server space. This would provide storage, hosting, and other administrative services. My needs are much more modest. For me one obvious solution would be to use a cloud storage service, like Google's or Amazon's, transfer my files over, and host from there. The monthly fee would depend on the amount of storage I needed and how often the files were accessed. In my case, this would amount to pennies per month probably, a dollar or two tops. At some point it would make sense to handle my whole web presence (and my wife's) this way, but I wanted a quick solution so that my graduation portfolio would be up and running.

I have opted to experiment with an interesting solution called WWW Drive. This is a free service that allows me to keep all my folders and files right where they are on Google Drive (it works with Microsoft OneDrive too). After I've signed in to Google Drive and given permission, WWW Drive looks for public HTML files in my Google Drive. It then gives me a permanent URL to use instead of the Google Drive URL. In a browser, the Google Drive URL results in a view of the HTML text and an offer to download the file. But the WWW Drive URL results in a rendered web page, just like Google Drive used to do.

Here's a web app I built as a course assignment. The files involved are all stored on Google Drive. I have a public folder called Rocket. This is what WWW Drive found and gave me a URL for. In that folder is the file index.html, which is rendered automatically. There are also files held in three subfolders: js, images, and css. I did not have to relocate or rename any folders or files. I did not have to change any code in index.html. Here's the new URL, which you are welcome to click: Or just play with the file embedded below.

The only difference I have noticed is some latency, which is most obvious on my less-than-robust wi-fi. Also, a single line of code is added at the bottom of the HTML file linking to a small JavaScript file. It's a Google Analytics tracking snippet.

I can't tell you how WWW Drive works or whether there are security issues. What I CAN tell you is that it works like a charm.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reflection on INTE 6720 - Research in Learning Design & Technologies

I have known a number of people over the years who were working on their PhD research. But I’ve always been surprised by their inability, or perhaps disinclination, to explain what their thesis was about. Now I think I have a better feeling for what they were going through. I discovered from my literature review that research writing is a very odd bird indeed. What a strange way to write! It’s not at all what I’ve been led to believe in my ordinary college courses what writing a paper means. I would almost say that it is the hardest and most bizarre way to get your point across, but of course I now understand why research is written this way. And I came to actually like writing this way. Plus I can read a research article much more efficiently, now that I know what to expect.

What I really liked was learning what it meant to have and support an argument. I loved this aspect of the textbook - The Craft of Research. I’m sure I’ll paw through this book for many years, sharpening my arguments.

As part of a course I took last semester, I conducted a survey in my school using a team of volunteers. I designed the survey materials and protocols, then analyzed the two weeks of data and interpreted it using a published rubric. It was fun, but I have a much better sense now of how such a survey might fit into a bigger research project, and what it would take to write a proper paper to present the research.

My brother is a newly-printed PhD, and when I showed him what I was doing in this course, he was impressed. “I wish I had a course like that before I started writing my thesis,” he said.