Changes in Education Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

Something I would add to our class conversation about changes in education–more and more people earning college degrees thereby decreasing the value of the degree–is the way educators and the education systems generally put down trades.  I don’t think choosing one of these trades is inferior to going to college and choosing a different profession; it’s just different. It used to be that plenty of people would enter trade schools when they completed high school, possibly entering trade school before they graduated, but now that’s shunned for the most part (in the US at least).  Trade schools do exist, but the experience I had when my brother looked at going to a trade school for mechanics is that they are few and far between and are more expensive than going to a public university…make sense to you?…sure doesn’t to me! If you don’t go to college, then there is something wrong with you and you’re not going to make something of yourself is the mentality.  Well, I think we can all agree that we need plumbers, electricians, mechanics, etc. and it would be nice to have individuals who’ve been through a trade school as opposed to “on the job training” i.e. trial and error.   Perhaps the issue is that people and our society have gotten so wrapped up in being the best that we’ve lost site of the importance of various aspects of our society…if we’re all college educated professionals, who is going to build and repair our cars, houses, etc?  I read an article in my Educational Psychology class about experiential learning and getting kids involved in the community (K-12), perhaps this thought process can help educators reconnect the dots about the needs of our society.

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Large Classes Thursday, Apr 21 2011 

A bit late in relation to class, but figured I’d weigh in on the large class subject.  This is something that I find daunting and have no idea why this is thrown at new faculty members…the only thing I can come up with is that no one else wants to do it, so here you go low man on the totem pole.  It makes me think of my time as a therapist and particularly when I left Northern VA and returned to Richmond pre-license and had no choice but to partake in the in-home therapy fad.  Yes, I say fad because inevitably, after millions of Medicaid dollars are spent, the powers that be will realize that this is a generally futile practice….that’s a whole different topic though.  Anyway, individuals without a license are the ones spending eight to ten hours a week with families who are about to have their children removed from their home as a last-ditch effort to “save the family.”  This is something you think would be handed to the most experienced clinicians, but no, again low man on the totem pole practice.  There is at least light at the end of the tunnel in regards to teaching large classes.  For everyone who participates in PFF courses and other such programs, we at least know what to expect and have pointers on how to make the best of the situation and shake things up a bit to keep it interesting.  I must say, I was shocked by some of the examples given by our guest speakers about the observed behaviors in some of their large classes…I don’t know if it’s a generational difference or what, but I never would have dreamed of watching a movie in class…I admit I might have thought about shopping for shoes when in large lecture classes, but I wouldn’t have done it.  They also offered good options for ways to engage the students.  One thing that is still difficult to navigate to me is choosing what to actually cover during the class period…usually large classes are introductory courses in which each chapter can and usually is an entire class unto itself.  What do you emphasize in class?…what is most important?…what you find the most interesting?…figuring out what the students find most interesting? 

Not something revolutionary as we’ve already discussed the use of clickers, but here is a video of one of my former professors at William and Mary using clickers in his large class.

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3 Thursday, Mar 24 2011 

I really enjoyed the reading for this week about authentic assessment.  Recently, I had to retake the GRE because my scores expired and I am in the midst of trying to get into a doctoral program in Educational Psychology.  They should change the name to the GRRRRRR…..I was incredibly annoyed, particularly by the quantitative section.  Concepts includes mainly Algebra and Geometry…subjects I haven’t studied in over 10 years.  Why not have separate quantitative sections depending on if you’re going into the bench sciences or social sciences and humanities?  Then social sciences/humanities people can have statistics and the bench sciences have calculus or whatever best fits quantitative reasoning in those disciplines.  Instead study guides straight out tell you to memorize strategies to correctly answer the specific types of questions in order to score well–exactly what we don’t want students doing, especially graduate students!  The analytical writing section is an improvement over the analogies, but it is still not the greatest assessment.  You have 45 minutes for one essay and 30 minutes for another.  The topic I was given to cover thoroughly in 45 minutes was essentially “What is effective instruction?”.  Okay, perhaps some can cover this quickly, but for me this is something that requires much more than 45 minutes to cover thoroughly. 

Can’t wait to see what will come up this evening in class!

Tweet, Tweet Thursday, Feb 24 2011 

I will admit that Twitter is a service I have refused to join since it came out because I’ve only thought of it as the one aspect of Facebook with which many users go overboard–constantly posting where they’re at/what they are doing.  It’s really not of my concern that you’re eating dinner in front of the TV or going shopping at this exact moment.  Why would you waste the time to continually post what you’re doing every moment of the day?  I am driving in the car…I am at X restaurant…I am eating XYZ…I am driving back home…etc, etc.  Seriously, either you have way too much time on your hands or your ego is so enormous that you feel everyone is dying to know what exactly it is that you’re doing. 

The readings (here and here)for this week have introduced me to a new side of Twitter; increasing communication among students and between students and professors among other benefits.  We’ll see what additional information comes from class tonight…maybe I’ll be converted and jump on the Twitter bandwagon, well, at least for academic purposes.  You don’t have to worry about me posting my every action of the day.

Diigo, Delicious and RSS…oh my!! Friday, Feb 18 2011 

Okay, deep breath in….sometimes when first learning about new technology it can be overwhelming.  This is something my group was discussing tonight during class.  While the prospects of refining the information available on the web and having concise information to suit your needs and interests delivered right to you is thrilling, it is also daunting at the outset.  Diigo, delicious, RSS…oh my!  Setting up the various accounts, more log-ins, more passwords; oh wait, what are the various features of the different accounts?…cross-reference notes, confer with classmates, okay now I remember…deep breath out.  I think I’ve got it.  Well, at least the basics.  I am certainly not at the skill level of many others when it comes to embedding things and other such fancy tricks. 

I definitely see the benefit in personal learning environments over blackboard when it comes to educational experiences.  Blackboard disappears when the semester is over ending the connections and conversations between a student and a professor and other students unless the student makes an effort to continue conversing with the professor and classmates via other services such as email (readily available information on most campuses).  There have certainly been times where I couldn’t remember a classmates full name from a previous semester to be able to look up their email address and thus that connection was lost unless I saw them on campus or at some point later ended up having a class together again.  In some of these instances, continued conversations through some of the technological advances we’ve discussed thus far–blogs, tags, RSS–could lead to important connections whether it be for networking purposes or for the acquisition of knowledge.  This makes me think of a moment I had earlier this semester in another class.  My assignment was to look up four research articles related to Educational Psychology.  In the process, I found multiple journals dedicated to my research interests that I previously didn’t know existed.  All of this due to having a background in psychology versus education…the key to a plethora of research related to my interests lie in the area of Educational Psychology which I did not become aware of until this past year.  I will remember this experience as I continue in my time as a student and then a professor in higher education…Any person might hold the key that unlocks the door to someone else’s quest for knowledge.  Blogs, tagging, and RSS used in the academic context can greatly expedite students’ journeys along the educational road toward that magical key that unlocks the door to the wealth of knowledge for which they are searching.

Tag You’re It Tuesday, Feb 8 2011 

The two major pluses I see with tagging/social bookmarking are

1.  the ability to access them from any computer versus one specific computer and

2.  the ability to share with others on the web

Similar to the use of blogs it allows for more immediacy, you have the assistance of others doing the same type of work you’re doing.  Instead of just the sites you find in your web searching, you can see websites that others have found that could be of great value.  Given modern times where our pacing is at warp speed, this can be an amazing asset when you need to have some bit of information yesterday. 

http://www.commoncraft.com/bookmarking-plain-english was an excellent how to guide for getting started with tagging/bookmarking and explaining its benefits. 

Jon Udell’s blog about the use of tagging was right on the mark for me.  http://blog.jonudell.net/2007/12/12/discovering-versus-teaching-principles-of-social-information-management/ I think the vast change that has occurred in internet programs Facebook, blogs, tagging, etc.  is definitely going to require some changes in what kids learn in primary and secondary schools as well as educational professionals at all levels.  I remember when I was in high school I decided to go ahead and take a typing class because teachers were beginning to require papers to be typed when submitted and I didn’t want to have to spend twice as long working on a paper because of not knowing how to type.  I am very glad I sacrificed an elective for one year to take that course as opposed to friends of mine who chose to continue with their normal elective choices and still “hunt and peck” in a computer driven world.  Kids of today and the future are going to have to go a step beyond basic typing skills and learn about the different platforms available to assist in their educational experience and every day life…learn about blogging, tagging, social bookmarking, etc. so they’re prepared to be efficient “knowledge finders.”

Technology & Teaching Wednesday, Feb 2 2011 

One of the key things that came up in our group discussion was the use of blogs for academic publishing and the issue of intellectual property.  It can be difficult to find a good balance between sharing some of your ideas related to your research interests to get feedback from colleagues and potential links to others with the same interest, but at the same time there is the fear that someone might take your concept and run with it themselves and potentially publish it before you’re able to do so.  There doesn’t seem to yet be any real rules or guidelines for blogs and intellectual property at this time.  At least one classmate stated he wouldn’t discuss his research ideas on a blog to prevent the problem, but it seems you would potentially missing out on the opportunity to improve your research effort by not posting at all about research interests. 

I believe that all of Chickering and Gamson’s principles are still applicable and if anything are easier to practice given the technology available today. Using technology in the classroom has its ups and downs as all techniques do.  It allows students who may be to shy to participate in class and in the instance of blogs it provides an opportunity for more discussion than would be possible in the classroom.  This is demonstrated in an article and video about Dr. Linneman a sociology professor at The College of William and Mary http://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2011/linneman.php.  A downside of technology in the classroom is that unmotivated students may be even more distracted with open access to technology.  An article in The Chronicle also discusses the use of technology in the classroom, specifically skype/webcams for guest lectures or students who are unable to make it to class.  http://chronicle.com/article/New-Question-for-Professors-/126073/?sid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en

Blogging Thursday, Jan 27 2011 

Learning about the history of blogging via Stephen Downs’ article “Educational Blogging” was interesting.  I was not aware that 9/11 was the impetus for blogging taking off as a means of communication.  Many pluses were discussed in regards to blogs and education.  Movable type was mentioned as allowing teachers to create blogs only accessible by an individual student and the teacher, providing an outlet for private feedback so a student doesn’t have to be called out in the classroom and the student can ask questions without fearing the reaction of classmates. 

Educators also benefit from the use of blogs.  It allows knowledge to be shared in a more immediate manner, without searching.  As described on page six of “New Media Technologies and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning” from the January 2009 issue of The Academic Commons Magazine, “It’s like continuously working with thousands of research associates around the world.”  In addition, blogs were mentioned to place academics in a more proactive role with media versus reacting or responding to their questions.

Below are the links for Stephen Downs’ article as well as Henry Jenkins’ blog about blogging in academia. 

http://henryjenkins.org/2008/04/why_academics_should_blog.html

http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume39/EducationalBlogging/157920

Online Education Thursday, Jan 27 2011 

After reading “Through the Open Door: Open Courses as Research, Learning and Engagement by Dave Cormier and George Siemens as well as “New Media Technologies and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning” from the January 2009 issue of The Academic Commons Magazine many thoughts came to mind.

The creation of open courses on the web and other forms of online education are bringing about many questions into the education arena.  How will this impact higher education?  Is online better than traditional courses or vice versa?  There are certainly many considerations to be made as society enters a digital era.  How does online impact educators, students, society as a whole?  For students there are ups and downs…some students might be more inclined to participate in and impersonal electronic design where others might not participate as much given the option of not reading all of the posts.  Online allows for students to pace themselves as they need versus in a classroom setting where all of the students must wait until everyone understands the subject matter.  On the other hand, students lose the interpersonal experience with online classes.  A broader question being is this the beginning of a transition to a society that only interacts with others virtually instead of face to face?  What would that mean?  It might be a plus for the environment, but what happens to psychosocial development and the economy.  With open courses many professors could become unemployed as far fewer professors would be needed for instruction.  In addition, secondary teachers could find themselves out of work if more parents chose home schooling over public or private education with the availability of instruction from the best of every area of study online.