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 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 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 20: Presentations, Offshoring, Facebook

9 10 2009

Class did not meet today, since our students all made their loan presentations to our review board this week and some were completely traumatized by the experience. Not a lot to report here about connected learning, except to share two observations from their presentations. First, we had multiple groups who are sourcing their products from China. While those of us in the loan review group (i.e. those over 40 years old) all gritted our teeth as we anticipated the problems which this choice could lead to, the students were unfazed. For example, one group is ordering iPhone cases with the school logo on them; the price is domestically unbeatable and they have been promised two-day shipping. (NOTE: this product did arrive on time, was as advertised, and sold rapidly). Welcome to the global marketplace.

Several of the groups also were using Facebook to publicize their items and generate sales, which is a recent addition to their traditional marketing methods which mostly fall into the “stand outside a campus event and accost people as they leave” category. This shift is consistent with most of the data I’m seeing, which suggests that Facebook is becoming a typical student’s internet portal. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that email is actually falling out of favor with some students, as they shift more of their communication to text message and Facebook postings.

So if you’ve just figured out email, hang on for the ride! Hopefully they will settle on something soon.

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 »