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 debbiedoescakes.net). 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 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 »