Wednesday Musings

I thank Will for suggesting that we begin our session this morning with a discussion. A smaller group populated by math and science instructors generated a great deal of debate about the current use of technology in our classrooms, its place within the curriculum and the potential future role it could play. Despite some commonality regarding the technology we employ, there did seem to be quite a diverse range in ideas and physical products our peer departments bring to the classroom. Once again, a return to the “value” of the answer versus the “interpretation” of the answer arose. Thanks to Joel for stoking the fire a fair bit. His insights, while from the Humanities perspective, made for excellent discussion and comparison. I don’t think there is a right answer – just a lot of interpretations. 

At this point, I’m a bit upset – mostly at myself. I had written a nice, long, articulate post that failed to post correctly. I copied using Apple + A to select, refreshed the page and pasted the content. The paragraph above only made it successfully through the transfer process. I have to now rethink what I had written. C’est le vie.
I really enjoyed watching the math/science teachers take off with the Mathematica product. Acting as a guide and a bit of a troubleshooter introduced me to some new ideas, re-formed some of my Mathematica chops and engaged me. I appreciate finding myself once again in a setting where others are excited by the powerful things one can accomplish with Mathematica. 
We had considerable discussion regarding LMS or CMS. Dropping blackboard entirely after last year, largely disgruntled with the patience required to navigate, I shunned a LMS entirely this year. Employing dropbox instead as a location to post and share content seemed really to work well. I handled communication via a class email list. I don’t think these two always functioned as a perfect unit with no room for improvement, but the solution proved effective in its simplicity. My dissatisfaction with most LMS is that they do far more than I would ever use them to do – and they don’t perform tasks as well as other programs could independently. In my mind, simpler is better. I think I’m pretty confident that I can find ways to include other things I want. And if I’m unsuccessful, I do know that these other LMS exist, and that knowledge is useful and comforting. For now, I’m not sold. 

Thursday in T21C-Humanities

We spent this morning discussing the “LMS problem.”  Basically, we’re asking what we need an LMS for, when so many of us use web 2.0 tools, but we agreed that having a “home page” of sorts was useful for the students as a starting place.  We thought the kids could manage multiple systems if the content was organized in a logical, thoughtful manner.  We liked some of the tools that LMSs have, but we thought that some web 2.0 versions were better than those packaged in LMSs.  We talked a fair bit about design and agreed that although content is important, people judge the value of a “system” at least initially by its graphic design.  And we all agreed that students have a more refined sense of design, given the social media/web 2.0 world in which they live.  So we know that instructional design is still very important:  how to chunk information into manageable pieces and group them into meaningful units.  Where do we go from here?  Continue with an updated version of our LMS?  Migrate to someplace else?  Create our own?  Cobble together a set of tools to which we link from a personal site?  These are the questions we’re all asking and we’re all experimenting with different approaches.  It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out over time, especially as new, cool options like iTunesU continue to emerge.

This afternoon we worked on projects on all sorts of apps.  Several participants are creating blogs.  We figured out RSS feeds for the blogs and had a victory dance.  We learned about TedEd and Mighty Meeting.  We explored a bunch of other apps and just settled on what we wanted to finalized for our take-away projects.  Lots of fun, lots of learning, lots of sharing.  A great day.

More thoughts on keeping up with technology

I am going to commit to using a “voice-over” technology like Explain Everything for grading this fall on at least one assignment, and I am going to create a blog on blogger for my new world history course–to use at least twice this fall. The other tool that I am determined to try out for some homework assignments is Voice Thread.  Finally, based on some of our “flipped classroom” discussions this week, I am going to experiment with having students watch video for home work and comment/respond to questions (Voice Thread?) before coming to class, so we can use class time to dig deeper–would like to try this twice during the fall term. I have to set small goals or else I’ll panic!


Second try at a first project

Decided to try Google Sites to build a course site, instead of WordPress, which I found balky.  Work in progress:

Maybe you can see it, if I haven’t set the privacyrestrictions to lock you out.

Kris led us this morning through a survey of several apps and sitesmew might consider. Check the Toolkit 1 syllabus and notes for ourlist.  Lots of overlap with the list Vi posted below.  

Saw most of the NMH contingent at a bar tonight. What does that say about us?

Google It Is

I spent some time acquainting myself with the many applications available in Google today with the afternoon dedicated to Google Sites.  While it is definitely not intuitive for me, it is nice to be set on a particular plan, and it is my hope that during project time tomorrow, I will make some progress.  Ah, nothing like sunrise in Gill, MA.Image