Is it right for graduate students to be marking each others’ work?

I was registered for an online class during the Spring 08 semester and the major project for the semester included being grouped with classmates from all over (making it difficult to facilitate collaborations), creating a module to teach the class (with software that nobody was knowledgeable about), creating assignments for our peers and then marking any assignments we created for ~15 other classmates.  This was to go on, one group per week, for 4 of the 7 weeks that this class was scheduled.  My next question is: why even have a prof?  What is he being paid for?  Week one and two had one assignment, several discussion questions, some odds and ends to contribute, and chats in 3 different “chat rooms” where one student was asked to moderate (myself in my assigned chat room), but given now direction or topic, so turned into a wasted hour of rambling.  Week 3 was when we received our groups and topics and were to create a module worth 40% of our mark.

Needless to say, I have dropped the class (the first one I ever seriously considered dropping and now have dropped).  I felt terribly guilty in doing this, since I had been assigned a group to create the module with, however, the level of stress and frustration that I was experiencing coupled with a serious lack of sleep was beginning to affect my health and my family life to a degree that I was very uncomfortable and unhappy with.

I have taken other online classes and had starkly different experiences.  Alec Couros taught ECI 831 Winter 08 semester and it was outstanding – the best class I have EVER taken – collaborative, clearly outlined expectations, exposure to several new technologies, full support from instructor and peers, reasonable assignments (my blog was one of them, which I intend to keep up- obviously!)… I could go on and on.  My point is that I have had other experiences to compare this to and even other online classes I have taken did not result in such frustration and stress as this semester’s class has.

Your thoughts on this format for a grad class?

Evite

April 24, 2008

For those who are truly stuck on technology (like myself), here is an electronic invitation site that I recently used to invite people for my son’s birthday party called Evite. It is simple to use and provides you and your guests with the information they need. For the planner, it is 3 steps:

  1. Choose a design
  2. Enter the information (Location, time, host, message, etc.)
  3. Enter the guest’s email addresses and send.

Now these instructions are based on me pushing buttons and using no tutorial, so they are probably a little rough around the edges, but it is clearly easy to use.

I have previously used the Event tool in Facebook, but still had to email people on my guest list who were not members of Facebook, so it meant two different places to look and not everyone checked their Facebook often enough to respond in a timely manner. Evite sends the invitation to their email, which most people check fairly regularly and as the “host”, you can check a  box to receive notification when someone replies and can view your invitation status at any time to see who has viewed the invitation or update the details.

Check it out.  I would be interested to know if you have used other sites like this and what their benefits are.

The Touch of the Babe

April 23, 2008

I was amazed this morning and just had to share with my blogosphere.  My son, who will be one year old on the 28th loves my iPod Touch and seeing pictures of himself on it.  This morning when we were looking at the pictures and scrolling through them by gliding my finger across the screen, he went to grab for the device, but instead started moving his little fingers across the screen to view the different pictures.  He instantly looked up at me with a huge, gratified smile and continued to scroll through the pictures at his own pace, smiling the whole time!  All in the touch of the babe – it was beautiful!

Camtasia 5.0

April 8, 2008

Once again, I chose to challenge myself and learn about another new Web 2.0 tool called Camtasia 5.0 (30 day trial version) to create a video documenting the process that I went through to create my Major Digital Project for EC&I 831 and then decided to do a video reflection about my EC&I 831 Journey. I didn’t realize just how much of a challenge I was up for.

A few months ago I downloaded Jing and used it to create a tutorials about how to use Ning and what is RSS and using Google Reader. I found Jing fairly user friendly and had few problems using it. Perhaps one of the downfalls (or perhaps it is a good thing) is that Jing only allows 5 minutes of recording time. I wanted to experiment with Camtasia, but found out that it was no longer freely available. Then I heard that there was a free 30 day trial available while watching the great videos that my classmate Walter had created and Jing began coming up with viruses on my computer (not sure why).

I downloaded the free 30 day trial of Camtasia and went into the program and had to double-check that I had not accidentally opened Windows Movie Maker, because it looked very similar, which sort of disappointed me because I had already learned and used Movie Maker at the beginning of the semester to create my bio video. Right now, I am thinking it would not have been bad if it was like Movie Maker! Camtasia has the same layout as far as the timeline, storyboard and some of the editing features, but then goes beyond that to let you capture video, audio and information from Powerpoint too.

I viewed several of the tutorial videos that Camtasia has available, however, I am one of those people that learns by doing, so watching a video is only average for me – I have to dive in. I wrote a bit of an outline so that I did not miss anything and then opened a number of tabs in Firefox so that I could move seamlessly from one idea to the next. This worked fairly well, but I had to record several times because at first, I could not recognize when the recording had started, then I was forgetting to include some things, and towards the end, I was losing my voice due to coughing with the cold I picked up last week. After all of the battles with recording, I finally had a finished recording which I now needed to put together on the timeline. This part wasn’t too bad, but it was difficult to align the video with the audio sometimes and took a bit of fine-tuning.

When I finally had all of the information that I wished to include, I went to produce the video. The rendering took a really long time and then was in a format that Screencast.com did not recognize, which was frustrating since Screencast.com is where Camtasia suggests you upload your video to and I had chosen the format that Camtasia suggests. After re-rendering several times, in various formats, and then changing how I got the video into Screencast.com, I had my first video ready. Whew!! One more to go – oh no!

Actually, when you consider that I didn’t spend tonnes of time learning all of the features of Camtasia, the videos turned out alright.  I hope to spend some more time tinkering with Camtasia and see if there is an easier way to render, because this part really made my computer work (it was humming and I was ready for it to either start hovering or go up in smoke).

Anyways, in the end, I created the two videos that I was aiming for, so I am happy despite my struggles.

Wired for Sound!

March 26, 2008

After seeing some of my classmates use Voki on their class blogs, I thought it might be an interesting way to welcome people to my HR social network – The HR Connection. After some assistance from the Ning crew as to how to embed the code, I added the Voki to the main page. It is a pretty cool tool and super easy to use. Give it a try and get wired for sound! I did 🙂

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.voki.com posted with vodpod

I created a tutorial for a group of teachers who have been listening to me rave about the power of networking and how excited I am about this tool or that or some of the fantastic technology leaders that I have been following for the past few months thanks to my Google Reader and Alec’s ECI 831 class. These teachers (like myself prior to January 2008) had no clue what RSS was and had not used Google Reader, but were fascinated by how I knew so much about what was happening with technology in schools (my network made me look so intelligent, I hated to tell them that I wasn’t this brilliant star – it was my network!). I shared my big secret in this little tutorial video about what RSS is and how to setup and use GoogleReader. It was a good exercise for me to go through. I hope they start networking. My new philosophy is share and they will come…

Okay, here is my disclaimer: to all of you Second Life lovers out there – you can hate me for my opinions, but that is all they are is my opinions. I am a real technology supporter and lover, but having said that, you will see that my opinions below do not fit with this statement at all. I am very much a newbie to Second Life, so please keep this in mind as you read my first impressions.

I have created my “virtual self” in Second Life (SL) and I have to say, that like my classmate, Dean, I can’t say that it has been that positive thus far. I think I will stick with my First Life – in the real world, with my real self.

One of my issues with SL is personal image. As if anyone creates themselves in a likeness to themselves – it has places for “saddle-bags” and “love handles”, but I think that most people turn those as close to “none” as they can. So far I haven’t seen any overweight people in SL even though studies everywhere say how obese our society is. I tried to make my Avatar similar to my RL self, but as much as I tried to do that, my Avatar is still quite stunning comparatively.

My next issue is having people “walk” onto my computer screen and start talking to me – frankly, it freaks me out! The first time it happened I physically jumped and had to really work hard at not letting out a little scream since my son was sleeping. It is just all a little bit weird. While I am comfortable with web-cams, voice chats, etc. this idea of seeing what others are doing and having someone I may or may not know “show up” on my computer screen seems a little invasive to me.

I also find it difficult, even though I got a list of all of the people in my class that are in SL to tell who is who with all of the strange names and animal Avatars. Some I can hardly tell if they are male or female (not that this cannot happen in RL too)!

And my own weird thing with SL is that I get motion sick when I move my Avatar. I just can’t play games where the movement is rough like that, so I feel nauseous most of the time in SL – this probably doesn’t really improve my attitude towards this product.

We were taken on a tour of SL by Kirk Kezema this evening in our ECI 831 class. It was a little bit frustrating getting all of the kinks out, since we were guinea pigs for such a massive group tour(though it was pretty cool to be a part of something like that too, so thanks Alec for setting it up). There were a lot of issues with people having or not having sound, knowing what we were supposed to be doing, and not knowing general navigation rules. In a technology that is so new and so vast it perhaps would have been useful to have a bit more detailed preparation.

Unfortunately, even after the tour (which was about 2 hours in length), I don’t feel that I know that much more about the actual PURPOSE of SL. I just don’t get it or enjoy it. Is that okay that I don’t get one of the AMAZING tools that we have been introduced to this semester? I still think the technology behind the product is sheer genius, but I just don’t buy into the product and I feel guilty for my own opinions and feelings because I really want to promote all of these technologies, but I can’t do it for this one!