Day 27: Highs and Lows

26 10 2009

It may shock you to find out that not every day in my classes is outstanding, interesting, or worth writing about. OK, so that probably didn’t shock you at all. Like everything else in life, this class has had its share of ups and downs (many of which I’ve described to you). It has also had a fair number of days which are somewhere in the middle, and not terribly interesting to talk about. This was one of those days.

To avoid being one of those folks who starts by saying, “Well, I don’t really have anything much to tell you,” and proceeds to prove it for the next 40 minutes, let me just hit the high points. We tried the word cloud again, and this time it still didn’t work; that’s two strikes, and in my league that is probably enough. We took a quiz the old-fashioned way, I showed a couple of video clips in my lesson, and I sent them on their way.

Today was one of those classes that reminds you of the sad truth: no matter how hard you work to be  a dynamic, powerful Superman in the classroom, you will still have days where you are simply a somewhat uninteresting Clark Kent.  As you adopt connected learning tools, you will still have one foot in the old way of doing things. That straddling of two worlds can be both a liability and an asset. Oddly enough, I have found that an occasional day of old-style teaching actually adds variety to what I’m doing. And that’s a good thing, because all this new-fangled stuff is taking a lot of time to put together!





Day 26: Boooooom!

21 10 2009

Where to begin….

If you’re thinking about trying this whole connected learning thing, you are going to need one key thing, and it’s NOT technical expertise. In fact it’s not really any kind of knowledge at all. If you want to give this a shot, you must, MUST come to the experience with a willingness to fail, not on a small scale, but on the scale of a natural disaster. And you must know that the day will surely arrive when nothing you have planned will work, and you have to be ready to move forward and improvise in spite of it. In short: be brave, or it will never work.

OK, if you’re still reading, here is how Day 26 went. Now that we had figured out the formula for giving quizzes on the iPhone I was ready to just roll right on. Before class started I emailed all my students a link to the quiz (as I always do) and I told them to visit the link and launch the quiz (as I always do). They took out their phones, and after about 30 seconds, one of them said, “I can’t get to email.” He was only the first, and soon it was evident that more than half the class could not get to the link. What to do, what to do…. Read the rest of this entry »





Day 25: Dislocated teaching

19 10 2009

One of the hardest questions to ask yourself is whether you have become obsolete. About three years ago I designed an online course for our university. It was sort of an experiment for me as we move some of our less frequent offerings (especially at the graduate level) to an electronic format. For this process I took an existing course and recreated the lessons, experiences, illustrations, and other elements so that an individual anywhere in the world could complete the course from home. Since that time, a few hundred people have completed the course, all with relatively little involvement from me.

Ironically, if we take that model and extend it to its ultimate possible degree, we reach a point where a team of professors could spend two or three years moving an entire degree plan online, at which point they could all retire (if they are old enough) or just file for unemployment (if they are not), while the course was taught by adjuncts, grad students, or someone else for the next ten or twenty years. This is the outcome which troubles professors across the nation right now, and it remains to be seen how it will play out. Of course that topic is far too large for us to consider here, so let’s leave that depressing thought and move to something more immediate. Read the rest of this entry »





Day 24: Paper vs. Plastic (revisited)

16 10 2009

Before letting my students work on their team projects, I collected some more data. Once again I was trying to understand how they view the connected learning initiative, the various technologies that go with it, and the advantages/disadvantages it brings to the game.

In my first round of data collection (done more than a month ago) I  found that the students strongly preferred taking their quizzes on the iPhone; this preference surprised me  because we faced so many problems with the technology early-on. Of course the challenge in assessing this sort of data is to determine not just what was said, but also why respondents said it. So my objective in this survey was to learn whether their strong preference for electronic quizzing was inherently about the mode of delivery, or whether  it was more about feedback timing; after all, a printed quiz takes at least a day to turn around (often longer) while the electronic version provides immediate feedback. Read the rest of this entry »





Day 23: Self-cleaning tracks

14 10 2009

Today we started class with an event I call “show me your apps”. I demonstrated one silly game I had downloaded, then invited students to show off their favorites,  using the document camera to demonstrate for the class. One student demo’ed a shooting game called “Space Beef,” and a second showed us an app that does nothing but make gun sounds(?). A third demonstrated an app that swaps people’s faces in pictures, and he shared us a really creepy shot of the guy and girl he sits next to, each wearing the other one’s body and hair. The fourth actually sang for us, using an auto-tuner app (that would be T Pain if you’re young, Cher if you’re older) to tweak his voice and provide a background beat. While sorely tempted to grab the iPhone and join in, I restrained myself.

Today marked the official halfway point of the semester, and I conducted a small experiment. I checked attendance (manually, as part of my ongoing efforts to create a smooth automated system), then I announced that students could leave class without penalty. I also announced that those who stayed would be expected to sit at the front and participate, after which I left the room for two minutes. I returned to find the room….. Read the rest of this entry »





Day 22: Doubting Thomas

12 10 2009

I don’t know what you do on your days off, but I spent the weekend pondering connected learning tools and techniques (yes, I need to get a life). I wrote a lesson plan that was highly connected and I expected today to be a great day. Instead, I found myself wondering yet again whether it’s simpler to just run, tail-between-legs, back to the tried and true safety of paper quizzes, scripted lectures, and non-connected learning.

It started with the quiz. We had 1 student who couldn’t find the link in her email (I fixed this one pretty easily). We had 1 student whose phone is going in for service today (I loaned him my phone to take the quiz). We had 1 student who didn’t get the link in his email at all…oh wait, he was looking at his Yahoo account, not his university account. But when all those were said and done, I still had 3 who couldn’t complete the quiz online. Ironically, one of the students who had trouble was the one I loaned my phone to, so I can’t really blame him for that I guess. Or maybe I can…. Read the rest of this entry »





Day 21: Test-worthy?

11 10 2009

First things first: for no real reason except to jump on the Obama-mania sweeping the nation, I made my own personal Hope portrait, which you can see right over there to the right. You can do the same thing for yourself at http://obamiconme.pastemagazine.com/ but don’t blame me for time wasted on such silliness. By the way, you can create one of these for virtually any photo you want, so you can make one featuring a desk lamp, a cucumber, etc. Again, don’t blame me for your time-wasting, as I have a responsibility to waste my own time first.

Today was Exam 2 day. Even many non-Christians have heard this famous quote, which is particularly true of exams: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” To date I have not reached a confidence point at which I am willing to risk the integrity of an exam using connected learning tools. In my mind, since we still experience frequent problems when we take a 10 minute, 10 item quiz, I am terrified by what might transpire if we tried to expand this to a 60 item, 50 minute exam. Along those same lines I am quite comfortable dealing with the consequences of a missed quiz, but don’t have any interest in ‘fixing’ a major snafu which leaves 10 or 15 students without an exam grade. Finally, while the iPhone screen is just fine for a few items, I worry about using it for a full hour of checking items (and scrolling backward and forward through 20 screens of items). So….we did it the old-fashioned way: paper test, scan-tron answers, scores to be turned around within 2 class days.

My quest for a good attendance system continues. Taking a cue from the Japanese school which is using the GPS in the phones to check roll, I contacted a US firm which provides location services; they told me they can’t do what I need to do. Bummer.

But wait, here are some more pointless Hope graphics!!!