Overdue Update

I knew at some point during the semester, I would be too overwhelmed to blog much, and that point came at the junction of creating the English department budget for next year and keeping up with grad school.

Some things I’m thinking about: assessment and professional development, planning a curriculum map/scope and sequence for my department, and NCTE.  Will I see any of you at the conference?  I’m looking forward to going.

I am plugging away in my grad school program, but I’m immensely frustrated by one of my classes to the point that I feel I should warn anyone interested in the program about the class.  It’s required, and it’s a complete waste of time.  It’s outdated, it’s boring busy work, and it’s mostly irrelevant.  It’s also the one that I was most looking forward to when I registered.  It’s a course on using the Web in education.  We have learned nothing, and I mean nothing, about Web 2.0 tools.  Several of the assignments have been redundant collections of links on various subjects.  When I finally thought I’d learned something in the class — fair use — I quickly learned from my blog commenters that even that lesson was outdated.  I was encouraged by one classmate to look at the class as a means to an end, but I admit it bothers me that I paid tuition for it.  And I plan to share this information on my course evaluation, too.  They MUST get this class, and in some respects, the rest of the program into the 21st century.  Why am I reading a book about how we are entering an information age and we need to change how we teach kids that was written in 1993?  Nothing more recent has been written on a similar subject that we can use instead?  I don’t believe it.

On the plus side, I was able to get a student discount for Adobe Studio 8, which was later replaced by Creative Suite.  It comes with Dreamweaver 8, Flash Professional 8, Fireworks 8, Contribute 3, and Flashpaper 2.  I haven’t worked with all of the programs, but I loved Dreamweaver and Fireworks.  I know Dreamweaver throws in a lot of code that isn’t necessary when you use it to create Web sites, but it’s so much easier than coding with HTML.  I used it to build the shell of the Web site that will be my ITMA portfolio.  Most of the pages are placeholders right now except for the home page and résumé, but feel free to watch it for developments!  A permanent link is in the sidebar to the left.

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Education and the Web? Not Really

One of the first classes in my IT program is a course entitled Education and the Web.  Based on the title alone, it was the one class I was really looking forward to because the title led me to believe it would treat up-to-date tools and uses of the Web in education.  How silly of me to leap to that conclusion.

My problem with the class is that I am not learning anything useful about Web tools or education-related sites.  One assignment I found particularly pointless dealt with the difference between the Web and the Internet which basically required some background reading on the history of the Internet (and the Web… because it’s critical for our purposes that we get the difference).  It was mildly interesting, but I didn’t advance my knowledge of how I can use the Web in education.  My biggest issue so far, however, is with the journal of Web sites.  I am required to collect and categorize a minimum of 50 Web sites that are useful in education, providing a link to the URL and a brief description of the site.  OK, no problem.  I am required to do it in Excel.  Can someone please tell me why, in a course called Education and the Web, they didn’t think to ask us to use a social bookmarking service like Delicious?  Delicious would enable me to collect and categorize through tagging.  It also allows for providing a brief description.  The URL and site name would be saved automatically.  What’s more, I could share all of my sites with my classmates as we could have been required to share and subscribe to each other’s feeds.  And we would be using the actual Web to learn more about Education and the Web.  Instead, I’m using Excel?  It reminds me of a remark Will Richardson made about presenters at NECC taking notes in Word.

This whole deal does not inspire confidence.  When the one class I thought might be most useful becomes the one I’m not learning anything from, what do I do?  Will my other classes similarly be at least five years behind the times?  Because that’s deadly for an instructional technology program, in my opinion.  I hope I get a chance to do a course evaluation.  I don’t have a problem with my instructor.  I’m not sure who wrote the course, but my perception is that a department of teachers all teach it at various times, so it may be that my instructor has had little input on the curriculum or it may be that my instructor created the curriculum.  Therefore, I am not sure whether it would be beneficial to advocate for myself and my learning by saying something to my instructor or advisor.  Some people would consider it useful constructive criticism and address the problem.  Others would see it as an attack.  I worry more about my classmates than I do about myself.  I have a pretty decent grasp of how to use the Web effectively for education, and because I keep up with so many savvy folks, I also know about some useful tools.  But what if my classmates were counting on learning the same kind of information in this class?

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A Quick Update

Being department chair coupled with starting graduate school hasn’t been good for my blog, but I feel great about what I’m doing and learning.  I had an excellent start to the school year.  My Hero with a Thousand Faces elective class is going very well.  We’re reading The Iliad together right now.  My British literature classes are going well; we wrapped up summer reading and start Beowulf in earnest this week and the next.  My ninth grade class is full of hard workers.

I am connecting with fellow students in my program at Virginia Tech through Facebook, and that has added a whole new dimension to my use of social networking.  One of my classmates set up a study group for us, and it has been helpful.  For instance, I found out who among our group is taking more than the first three hours our program of study recommends.  I needed financial aid, and I had to go at least half time, so I had to add a fourth three-hour class.  It was good to know who is taking the class.  I was using Excel for an assignment in that class last week, and I had to call my dad for a little bit of help (I’m weak with Excel).  This week, a classmate mentioned she was having some trouble with making the chart in Excel.  I was all ready to share what I’d learned, but it turned out she used a different program and made it work.  It’s easy to feel disconnected from fellow classmates when you’re studying online, and Facebook has been great for connecting and feeling at least a little bit like I’m part of a class.

I’ve been doing well with my assignments so far.  The level of challenge has been mixed, but I understand that much of it is intended to be introductory material.  Perhaps program designers needed to think about where most people are in their level of computer knowledge.  I am a bit concerned that one of my classes is a little dated in the era of Web 2.0, but I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve completed a few more lessons.

I am in love with my new MacBook.  I took advantage of the free iPod with rebate promotion, and I also now have an iPod for the very first time ever, and I love it, too.  It’s an iPod Touch.  I am not sure I will go back to a PC after the Betsy iBook and now this MacBook.  I am really glad that I was able to get the computer — never would have happened in a million years if not for financial aid.  I have to say our Federal Student Aid program is really excellent; I was able to go to undergrad and now attend grad school when there is no way I’d ever have been able to do either without financial aid.  I think it’s great that we offer that opportunity to students.

So, I’ll try to update soon with content and the like.  Stay tuned!

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Busy!

I started my master’s degree on Monday, and I have been so busy!  I had a problem with direct deposit and my student loan, so I had to wait until today to get a new computer for school.  The nice Mac iBook that Betsy gave me months ago died.  It made me very sad.  Well, I probably needed to go ahead and get a new computer for school because of the type of degree I’m pursuing.  For those of you who joined me late or forgot, I’m working on an ITMA (Instructional Technology Master’s Degree) at Virginia Tech.  So far, I am enjoying the program, although I had trouble doing assignments at school because I was so frequently interrupted.  One of our first assignments (which is fairly common, I would imagine, among online programs) was to introduce ourselves to our classmates via a listserv.  It looks like I will be learning with some interesting folks.  Some of us have already found each other on Facebook. I already submitted a few assignments.  I think as I go further into the program, I will begin to learn more interesting things.  It looks like the introductory classes are designed to make sure everyone has the requisite skills, so they’re not too challenging, but as I’ve taken on a leadership role in my department at school, it’s good for me to start slow.

Speaking of which, I am enjoying my role as department chair.  My department is hard-working and professional, and just a real treat to work with.  I think at this point we’re all just about done with summer reading.  I am really enjoying my Hero with a Thousand Faces elective.  I set up a closed network for the class on Ning, and I really like it.

I mentioned I bought a new computer.  One of my students told me that a former student of mine works at the Apple store at the mall not far from our school.  I messaged him on Facebook with several questions, and he was so helpful.  I bought a computer from him today — it’s a new MacBook.  I am totally in love with it.  I was able to get a free iPod Touch (as part of a promotion for college students and eductators).  Well, it will be free once I get the rebate.  I wish I had been able to afford the printer today — it, too, would have been free, but I had to purchase it first and then obtain the rebate, and I couldn’t quite swing it.  However, I do feel ready for school now, and perhaps I’ll feel a little less frantic.  Also, I might actually be able to update this blog once in a while.

For those of you who haven’t heard the news, it looks like local school system Clayton County has indeed lost their accreditation.  It’s very sad for the students and the teachers that the board leadership so mishandled the system’s affairs that SACS felt they had no other choice.  I am warily allowing comments on this post regarding this sad news, but I remind new visitors that unless you abide by the posted comments policy, your comment will not appear.

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Grad School!

I am excited to share that I have received official acceptance to Virginia Tech’s Instructional Technology Master of Arts degree program!  I start this fall.  My coursework will be completed online through Blackboard, so I will be able to remain in Georgia while attending school.

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