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?


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!


April 11, 2008

Since I work in HR, I found this post by Will Richardson very interesting.  How are students being taught about the impact of their digital footprints – or are they being taught this at all?  I have started to be more conscious of my own items published to the web and interactions with others as I am just finally realizing the implications of both negative and positive items appearing when someone “looks me up” on the web.  From what I have read about social networking and how to “protect” students, most of the literature I have read speaks to not posting personal information, being conscious of who they are adding as friends and the like (check out the PEW/Internet report on Teens, Privacy & Online Social Networks).  The part that is being overlooked in many cases is the positive use of blogging, wikis, social networks, etc. (and it is happening).  Students are enthusiastic to use the new mobile technologies and Web 2.0 tools, but from the post on Alec Couros’ blog today, it doesn’t look like this is sitting well with schools, administrators and parents.  So how do we get the message across that this is important to their futures?  What are your thoughts?  What are you doing to make it happen?

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 did not recognize, which was frustrating since 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, 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.

Once again, I was WOWED by our guest speaker in ECI 831 on Tuesday night. Chris Lehmann is the principal of the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. I had just read 2 articles that related: How To: Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning and My School, Meet MySpace: Social Networking at School so I was pretty excited to hear what Chris had to say. This school is only 2 years old and is extremely progressive. Technology is paramount at this school and is used extensively. Students must be selected to attend this school and go through an interview to be considered for admission.

They do a national search and build a network to recruit staff. Check out the qualifications for teaching at SLA:
• Applicants must be PA State Certified or eligible for PA State Certification in their subject area.
• Applicants must be committed to the idea that we teach students first and our subjects second.
• Applicants must be willing to challenge students to work in an inquiry-driven, project based environment.
• Applicants must be willing to work collaboratively.
• Applicants must be willing to work in a diverse environment with students who reflect the rich heritage of Philadelphia.
• Applicants should have a strong background in technology infusion into the classroom and be willing to see their classroom as happening both on and offline.
• Applicants should have an interest in developing extra-curricular activities.
• Applicants should be energetic, flexible, and have a strong desire to work with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students to create a school that reflects SLA’s core values.

Can anyone say “dream job”??

I completely LOVE their strong commitment to communicating with parents. There seems to be a lot of interaction with parents and opportunity for parents to be as involved as they would like to be.

Their mission is also shared openly and students and staff live this mission together: “How do we learn? What can we create? What does it mean to lead?” This commitment to this mission, their philosophy of distributed leadership, and not trying to be everything to everyone, but doing what they do well is refreshing.

The idea of UDL is very interesting to me. I had not heard of it before Tuesday night, but the Center for Applied Special Technology has an excellent definition of it: “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all.” I want to spend more time learning about this concept of curriculum design as I am in charge of curriculum development at the law firm that I work at and think this might be useful.

They do have filters in place to monitor online activity, but they still have issues just like every other school. I was surprised when I went to the SLA website that they have the student websites so readily available to the world. It concerned me with how much information students shared here. Maybe they are needless fears that the media has instilled in me, but I nevertheless do have them. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the level of technological use at this school is fantastic and will open many doors of opportunity for the students which is evident on the masterpiece websites they have, but there is just a lot of information that we usually advise students (and even adults sometimes) not to post.

There are SO many questions that came to me after the presentation. Here are just a few: I wonder if they have the same problems that we do with technology? What is their Internet policy? What is their view on cell phones and iPods in the classroom? How are they funded? How is curriculum development dealt with (I don’t know how it works in the US, but in SK, we have to follow the SK curriculum and do not have that type of freedom to develop our own curriculum at individual schools – correct me if I am wrong here)? How are personal laptops dealt with? What advice would they have to teachers about implementing technology; 1:1; parent communication; social networking in schools (or as Chris referred to it – academic networking – maybe this would motivate teachers to use it in classrooms!)?

See my fellow classmates posts about Chris’ great presentation: Rosanne, Dave, Corey, Ken, Leah, Marlene, Shaun, Walter

D’Arcy Norman and Brian Lamb were our guest speakers in Tuesday night’s ECI 831 class. They started out the evening by tripping us out with this wacky YouTube video
and then got into the topic of Open, Connected & Social “Repositories”. There was a lot of information shared, so I will just share a few points that really stuck with me.

Organizing Data
The old way of organizing data was to create data and store it in silos that were very complicated because of all of the metadata that was created to organize/store it. This just doesn’t make sense with the “information explosion” of today and therefore folksonomy is a better solution. I finally understand what a folksonomy is too (for those who are reading this and saying “What the?”, folksonomies are people working together socially to sort things out).

They stressed the power of tagging information. This has really changed how we find information.

Technology is getting much cheaper in most cases, however, higher education is still spending money – is this because the institutions like control and want to limit the use of Web 2.0 tools?

New Phrase
I liked a new phrase that emerged during the discussion “choice fatigue” – so much to choose from; where to start? I think this is a huge part of why there is a very slow integration of technology into educational settings. Educators are already overwhelmed with the things being piled on them and technology is just one more, but it is so complex and there is so much to choose from and learn about, that many teachers turn away from it and knock it down on their priority list. How do we tackle this choice fatigue? Ideas? Thoughts?

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!