SITE Conference, Florida

I’m attending the SITE Conference in Florida — virtually. (Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education.) Still, it’s good. I’ve cleared my plate this week (mostly) so that I can “be” there. I’m tweeting, blogging at, and now I’m blogging here. I’m also reading and thinking and reflecting. It’s A M A Z I N G – thrilling and scary – it’s a roller coaster ride!

Thoughts as they rumble around in my head:
3D printing, gaming, collaborative learning, mind-mapping, digital storytelling, distributed cognition in students and teachers, TPACK (technology and pedagogy and content knowledge – all necessary), multi-modal thinking and learning and experiencing = true learning; one has to think about the content, experience it in context, sometimes in the “real world,” guided by wise teachers, but one has to construct the knowledge oneself – but maybe through the help of the teacher plus – technician, librarian, all working together to create the fertile ground in which the young soul will grow in understanding, knowledge, depth, compassion, and justice.

Follow at #siteconf. I’m at #lana_rings.

Some of the tweets: Is the teacher the sage on the stage or guide on the side? Neither. Should be the sage on the side. … Can you teach vision and forethought? … “Playing it” (the game Minecraft) will change student perspectives and attitudes. We should watch the embedded values, beliefs, attitudes. … Considering ‘epic fail’ as part of creative process in tech mediated learning in gr8 session. … Accidental creation/artistry can come from failure.

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What’s fun …

I think MOOCs will be fun … in retirement.
I think blogging will be fun … in retirement.
In my new position I have been like the proverbial kid in an old-fashioned candy store. I’ve eaten too much candy, and now I have a tummy ache! But, oh how good the candy tasted!

So the Walt Whitman MOOC has been slipping away, but …
Walt Whitman and his century has not.
For I’ve continued reading the recommended books from the MOOC: Walt Whitman’s America. As one reviewer on the cover said, I’m learning things about Whitman and his times that I never knew. …
And it’s a good read, too.

But in the meantime I’ve had to turn my mind to other tasks
that also take time.

Synchronous Learning Online — I’m in a synchronous learning online course the topic of which is
Synchronous Learning Online!

And I must tell you about it. It’s the wave of the future for 1) online learning courses that are 2) not too big, where 3) there is some thought to quality and 4) there is the understanding that there needs to be a facilitator and a producer and 5) if there is not money for both, the facilitator know how to engage the learners in helping to produce, which will also help their learning. It is an emerging technology, but it is the wave of the future: a combination of synchronous sessions when you need to be live with your learners and asynchronous when you can have them work on their own or virtually with each other. I’m developing ideas, and we’ll see where they go. I’m just over halfway through the course, and let me tell you: ASTD InSync training is excellent. It’ll cost you some, but my goodness, these people know what they are doing.

As I said, I’ll have more later, but for now … well, you know, one does have to do one’s work … altho’ this is my real work. 🙂

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The MOOC is slipping away. … There is nothing wrong with it. But it is being superseded by a course for which money had to be paid, and it is being superseded by my work life. True, I’m doing this MOOC partly for work – to have the experience of a student in a MOOC – but it is being crowded out by the “required” parts of my job.
It’s a good course. It’s well organized. The technical glitches are being handled well by the staff, and the course is moving along. I enjoy the videos and the interviews. Some of the student work is really nice, some superficial, but one can involve oneself as much or as little as one wishes, and one can choose the ways in which one wishes to be involved. That is the beauty of not taking something for credit. I realized that to truly be like a student and achieve it requires …
Work! Time! It’s a course! And I’m not a student anymore. Is it because I want to do it my way? Maybe partly, indeed. Not to be constrained by assignments and pressured by keeping on a schedule? Yes, of course. But it’s also the fact that I am no longer a student of privilege, as I was when I studied and devoted my life to it. I have a full-time job and a life, and to spend a lot of time on this course means pushing in ways that I don’t want to do if I don’t have to do.
Am I giving up? No. Not yet. In fact, I’m reading Walt Whitman’s America as my bedtime reading. … And I have made some realizations. I enjoy history – well written – perhaps better than poetry. Poetry was never my forte. I love writing my own, and I love reading the poetry of my friends. And I’m enjoying reading Whitman. But poetry is not the religious experience for me it is for some, nor is it the aesthetic experience it is for me that it is for some, nor is it the linguistic word experience and meaning experience for me that it is for some. I love playing with language, but more at the common level, at the fun level, at the not-so-genius level!!!!
I’m fascinated by what I’m learning and fascinated to know that I have learned so much in such a short time: Whitman the man, the thrust of his words, how different he was from many poets of the time, the 19th century, America, 19th century America. And I enjoy the comingling of my own family history in it, thinking about how old Whitman was and where he was when my great-great-grandmother Mary Melvina was born in upstate New York in the 1840’s.
So how much will I become a student and do the work? With the time constraints, there’s probably not much chance. It makes me think again about my own students who are over-extended. How can a college education be the deep, rich, and textured experience it could be when they are overextended? How can what they learn be enriching for them, and not simply hoops to jump through to get the piece of paper that says they have a degree?

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Facilitating Synchronous Learning Online

We were asked to post our aha experiences today in our online course on facilitating synchronous learning online course! I talked about Knowing Technology, Enabling, Engaging, Mindset, and Multi-Tasking. Learning can be frustrating and hard. Students must have motivation to continue. One needs a support system. Basically, one needs to know the technology and have people who can help, a university that will support that, one needs to engage students by doing what face-to-face educators say one needs to do: make the students do something, apply, reflect, think, etc. during the class – actually more often than in f2f. One needs to be passionate about the teaching or the content or the students or the goals. There is some frustration with multi-tasking – chatting regarding a problem, listening, doing an activity all at the same time! (It’s easier if you are not having a technical problem.)

I’m wondering about the application of various tools to pedagogical goals. I think we’ll deal with that, but for now …
Maybe I need to explore Domain of One’s Own

I think in both f2f and online live classes the instructor must be a facilitator and get the students doing things and thinking, although I would say that there can be some excellent live lectures and some excellent videos online. In the worst lecture classes, however, the course ideas pass, as Mazur quotes a colleague saying, from the professor’s notes to the notebooks of the students without going through the brains of either. That still happens, and it can happen online, too. What needs to change in education is that we need to quit thinking that because we can tell the students the material they will learn it. An absolutely wonderful video is Eric Mazur’s Confessions of a Converted Lecturer, in which he tells his own story, backed up by pre- and post-test data.

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Microsoft versus Apple is Costing Us Too Much Time, Effort, and $

I have now learned that ActiveX, which I need for a course I’m taking beginning next Tuesday, is not compatible with anything but Internet Explorer, and I have a MAC! Why doesn’t the tech world make it easier for us to do the work we need to do! Today I have spent a lot of time, my support people are going to be spending time, and it’s really all wasted time – which costs a lot of money, just because these two companies refuse to work together, and because the course I’m taking only uses ActiveX! We need more people out there who are solving these problems and bypassing the problems!

I hope there’s a way around this, but I don’t know it. I hope my IT people do. If not, I hope I can borrow someone’s PC somewhere, so I can accomplish what I need to. This is an expensive course, and I cannot afford not to take it. (It’s been paid for!)

Deeper into the moonspace of cyberspace. Ever deeper into the darkening depression of desperate demonic deltoids and deltas devoid of all devotion. (What alliteration! What alliteration!)

IT people: are you my saviors? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s possibilities.

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Walt, where are you!?!?!?!?

There is nothing – I repeat nothing – more aggravating to me in my work life than trying to learn new technology while trying to learn content or do projects. I relish using technology when it is in the background and the ideas and projects I’m involved in are in the foreground. However, when it rears its ugly face in the foreground and starts overshadowing the content, taking more time than the content, not working the way it should, or requiring even more technological learning and product accessing, then it becomes too overwhelming. … And when I’m working on several projects that each require learning new technology, well, you know how my day is going!  … And that leads into this:

My Walt Whitman MOOC experience is stalling out today. I guess I am too much involved in too many projects requiring my technological expertise to stretch: a training session on Lecture Tools yesterday, trying to get ready for an online course on facilitating synchronous online learning with ASTD, working with a new video camera for another project I am involved in, and this MOOC’s (new) annotation tool, which evidently needs google chrome.

Well, do you want to hear the details of my technological woes? Probably Not! But you must hear this one story. It’s about my computers at work. I happen to have an iMAC desktop and a MacBook Air laptop computer. So the iMAC is having problems. It won’t show it has iMovie – it’ll show an alias for it, but not iMovie itself. Well, OIT (the Office of Information Technology) sends a really nice person – Jessica – to help me out. (This is after other issues I began having with my laptop, including seeing that rotating beach ball much too often.)

So Jessica realizes the my iMAC is old enough that it needs to go to surplus, and I need to get a new iMAC. Well, that is great!!!! I am happy. So in comes this new iMAC all shiney and bright, and I need to download the material from my new camera’s disc, including some software for uploading movies to youtube, etc., and – I can’t find any slot to accept a CD!!! So now I have a call in to Jessica to see what I need to do. I may have to purchase some kind of external thingamajig if this is anything like other issues I’ve had.

Well, anyway, here’s a laundry list of my current tech issues:

  1. New iMAC: can’t find slot for CD which I need to work with my new camera. Do I have to get some kind of external drive? Who will pay for it? When will I get it? Am I missing something? Jessica, where are you?!?!?!
  2. New camera: Wonderful! Now I can interview faculty about best practices in teaching, but it has all its own technology, including a 36 page quick guide and an instructor’s manual that goes on forever.
  3. AirBook: that beach ball is driving me nuts and slowing me down.
  4. Lecture Tools: a wonderful software application that we have here that I learned yesterday and want to practice on, but won’t for awhile, because there are other matters….
  5. The ASTD course: I have to download software and get everything set up, for the course begins next Tuesday.
  6. The MOOC: that darned annotation tool. Maybe I won’t take it for a certificate? But, then, that defeats the purpose. I must try to be a student and suffer all the consequences that a student would suffer, trying to do a MOOC like this one, so that I can learn what it takes from the student’s point of view.

I like technology when it’s not the content or the foreground, but when it rears its ugly head and becomes the foreground, you can forget it.

Maybe I’m trying to learn too much at one time??? Will I be a dropout in any of these endeavors????

Oh – I have to get ready for a meeting shortly, because a colleague and I are going to work on our new SharePoint website that we were recently trained on ….

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Some Generalities, Whitman, and his MOOC

Some Generalities: This weekend I spent some time looking at the book recommendations that Elisa New made on our course syllabus. I like the fact that she reminded us of these books and their titles in her weekly post to us. I also like the fact that I could go on amazon and read in all four books to see which appealed to me, instead of having to try to find them in a library or purchase them, not knowing how interested I’d be in them. (None of them are required; all are recommended.)

I like the idea of a course, although the course has a student population of 13,999 and me. As a non-expert in the “field of Whitman,” it helps to have experts steering you, first, in the recommendations of reading about Whitman and his times. That way I don’t have to spend time floundering on the internet to try to find really reliable and appropriate reading.

I loved being able to read excerpts on amazon, which I did for all four books. I really liked reading  David Reynolds’s Walt Whitman’s America, so I ordered it for $4 plus shipping, and I also decided to order the somewhat dauntingly long (1,000 pages plus) of Gotham by Wallace and Burrows. It reads well, but it will take some time. However, it comes highly recommended – it’s a Pulitzer Price winning book and took the authors 20 years of research. So I ordered it – $9 plus shipping. (I like those used books!)

Whitman: what can I say thus far? I’m finding out a lot about him and his poetry. It’s great when you start at .05% knowledge of the man and knowledge of the 19th century from high school, college, study of family history, and general learning throughout the years (as well as studying 19th century German-speaking world more than the U.S.’s 19th century) – which means I will gain a much more in-depth and textured understanding of 19th century America through this course.

He’s amazing. For me that era was Longfellow and Irving. And Whitman – as they say – is so modern. I was astounded at how he took on America – and differently from the popular feelings about it today (which have to do with extreme patriotism, a lot of self-criticism, and the feeling among religious zealots and extreme liberals alike that it, along with the rest of the world, is “going to hell in a hand basket.” Whitman’s ideas about democracy, language, baseball, photography, and native American Indians will be very interesting to read about. Oh, no! I don’t think I ordered that book. (I must look and see and order, if I didn’t!)

The MOOC: Although there are 14,000 registered students and counting, I like the way Elisa New is approaching the course, and everyone in it. I realize that you have to be extremely organized and have a somewhat rigid plan, in terms of course material and assignments, as you do in any online course. Changing direction during the course most probably won’t happen. So I was wondering how flexible the course could be, how it could be tailored to the student population within it, and I am seeing how she’s doing it. She sent us a “letter” called “Greetings at the End of Week 0 by Elisa New,” and in it she addressed the student population as a whole. After having read in the discussion boards, seeing (I’m sure somewhat) who we were, and getting a sense of what we were saying, she based her comments on that understanding of who we are and what we had been doing. … And she related that to Whitman and his ideas: “we are ourselves almost a city– a great growing settlement on the internet with Walt Whitman in our midst. So many of Walt Whitman’s poems seem to address precisely the kind of assembly we are–diverse, far flung, and yet so closely connected.”

She also addresses what we are doing, steering us into an understanding of it. The fact that people start out with Whitman and that leads them off into other territory or back to their own ideas and writings does not daunt her. She acknowledges it, so people will know what they are doing, but then ties it into Whitman, that he would have reacted to it, and maybe he would have listened in on the conversation or maybe he would have wandered on.

She also addressed why she thinks he would have liked the MOOC, and how our “city” parallels in some ways all those people he was addressing: those of his time and those of the future beyond him.

All I can say is: “lovely.” There is a way to be flexible within the more constrained syllabus.

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