Day 32: Resurrecting History

16 11 2009

In my course we spend a day discussing US business history; I do this because a lot of events today make no sense unless you understand the context in which they arose. For example, labor unions frequently seem like an incredibly pointless thing to our students (we live in the Southwest where labor unions are almost non-existent) until we talk about the early twentieth century, when business owners could use and abuse workers without consequence (and most of them did).

Like many folks, I am still angry at my high school history teachers for taking a potentially rich and interesting topic and reducing it to a meanningless exercise in memorizing dates. In the later years of my life I have come to enjoy history, so I am intent on making our short study of business history interesting and relevant. So, for the first time this semester, we used the iPhones for actual in-class research.

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Day 29: How YOU doin?

2 11 2009

Today we tested my theory that we were still having connectivity problems in our classroom. As class began, I asked all the students with iPhones to switch from wi-fi to 3G. Some of them had been doing this already, since it seemed to alleviate some of the connectivity issues they experienced. Naturally, I had a few students who did not know how to make this switch, and I told them it was not a big deal. Once half the class was switched over, connectivity was smooth for the rest of the day.

We took a quiz today using Survey Gizmo; I e-mailed the link to the class just before starting time, then provided the password in class. Note to self: send the link earlier in the day so they all have it already resident on their devices. This just saves the hassle of two or three having to find it during class time.

For me, one of the huge drawbacks of large class sections is the difficulty in gauging how the students are doing. In particular, my first-semester freshmen are at some risk of getting lost in the crowd, falling behind, and giving up. Read the rest of this entry »

Day 28: Podcasting Upgrade

28 10 2009

Today was my birthday; if you’ll look closely at the iPhone in the picture, you’ll notice that it is actually a birthday cake (from Nobody got me a birthday cake quite this fancy, however I was able to celebrate by spending all day in a computer lab while the seniors from my other two classes took an exit exam. Happy birthday to me!

However, my students in the connected learning class did not suffer too terribly from my absence (I’d like to think that they missed my stunning good looks and my rapier wit, but these are both doubtful as well). Read the rest of this entry »

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 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 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!!!

Day 19: Something old, something new

5 10 2009

Today’s class was a blend of the old and the new, the low tech and the high tech. We took quizzes using the time-honored “paper” method. Again, groans from the class when I announced the old school method. Again, paper worked exceptionally well, with no lost scores and not failures to connect. If you are as old as me, you probably remember Xerox and some others promising us the ‘paperless office’ way back in the 1980’s. The reality was an explosion of paper, as we all got the tools to produce nice looking stuff right on the desktop. Reality vs. the predictions….

Today we used Turning’s Responseware for most of our class session. So far this little app has been my favorite aspect of our connected learning experiment, since it gives me instant feedback on whether my students are getting the material or not. Read the rest of this entry »