Technology Issues

This site is designed to be available to the most people possible, but current technology is such that it will not be completely accessible to some. I have tried to select sources and to design pages that will be accessible to anyone using Internet Explorer 4.0 or above or Netscape 4.0 or above. You also need to be aware that sometimes AOL's browser and Mac products introduce effects and conflicts that I have not been completely able to plan for.

To make this experience available to the largest number, I tried to keep all the files on my site limited to 20k or smaller. I have been largely successful. It is my experience that slow downloads discourage many surfers from online education. Although, I'm sure you, gentle reader, are patient as the falling snow, I am part of the surfing public that finds long download times infuriating.

On this site, I have tried to demonstrate a variety of kinds of instantly graded self evaluation instruments. For these I have used relatively simple javascripting. However, even those browsers which use javascripting do not all manipulate it in the same way. I only certify the javascripts functionality on Internet Explorer 5.0 and above.

All of these javascript quizzes are from one of the public "cut and paste" libraries online and can be adapted for your site. I have included in the source code the appropriate attribution for the original code and source. They are free to a site like this.

As to browser plugins, I have tried to limit my links to multimedia sites which utilize the most common types of media, for instance midi and wav files. These files can usually be opened with the Windows Media Player or the Real Player in a Windows environment or a Quicktime Player in a Mac environment. Practically all computers have one or more of these compatible players installed.

The Library of Congress music sites, however, require the use of an mp3 plugin and the Beliefnet.com meditations use the Macromedia Flash plugin. These Macromedia presentations may look like video but they are in a format that takes much less download time. I have links to the home sites for players for these media immediately below.

I have tried to avoid the use of Real Audio files simply because many of them (probably the older ones) tend to freeze up on my machine for reasons I do not understand. Unfortunately this makes a huge resource of music on the Russian government's music site and at the Internet Public Library unavailable.

I have also chosen to avoid regular video files simply because they take so long to download. I expect within a very few years bandwidth will have improved enough that we will be designing educational sites using this kind of media as well, but for now it is not realistic to expect a learner to stop the lesson and wait 25 minutes for a file to download in order to show him or her a 1 minute movie in a tiny little frame. I have also chosen to ignore the options of streaming video since it seems to be a "hit or miss" experience.

I suggest that if you do not have a Macromedia Flash plugin installed you go ahead and install it if for no other reason than that it allows for some really cool stuff. I can also testify that of all the multimedia plugins it seems to be the most stable. You can download it for free here.

If you need a good mp3 player (and who doesn't), I suggest Nullsoft's Winamp. It is a high quality product and a very short download. You can download it for free here.

One more little note: much of the art on these pages is clipart that is available to anyone having a valid Microsoft software product license. If you are a licensed user of Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Publisher, Microsoft FrontPage, Microsoft Home Publishing, Microsoft PhotoDraw, or Microsoft Works, you may use art from their huge online collection. Merely use the Insert/ Clipart/ Clips online/ buttons beginning in your toolbar.

And finally, I do hereby affirm that I have no commercial connection to any of the aforementioned companies. (Although if I had the money I might invest in a couple of them. They do such fun stuff.)

Stu Smith
April 2001

Since this was written in 2001, much has changed on the internet. Wikipedia is making a great deal of visual art easily available online, and YouTube has made it so much easier to bring a variety of musical and dramatic art into the classroom. Educators can now utilize a wide variety of visual and auditory multimedia in their online and brick and mortar classrooms. I am updating the links to multimedia on this site as I can, always keeping in mind those potential learners without a broadband connection.

June 2013