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?

Related posts:

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!

Related posts:

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.

Related posts:

Week in Reflection: March 31-April 4, 2008

This week was a really good week for me, personally, which I think translates often into good teaching.

One of my ninth grade classes is completely done with The Catcher in the Rye, and the other is still in the discussion part of studying the novel. The discussions have been good. Students always seem to enjoy this book. One of my students who didn’t like it actually asked me if there was something he was missing, as all of his classmates seemed to like it, and he expected to like it. I confided that I didn’t like it either in high school, but I loved it years later when I read it again. When I was in high school, I had trouble getting past the part when Holden hires Sunny, the teenage prostitute. Even though they do not, shall we say, complete the transaction, and Holden winds up getting beaten up by her pimp, I found the notion that he would even hire a prostitute distasteful. I just didn’t like Holden. Years later, with more experiences and perhaps more empathy, I viewed Holden entirely differently. I think it helped my student to hear that he is perfectly fine, thank you very much, if he doesn’t like the novel. On the other hand, one of his classmates read the novel four times before it was due. I am in a quandary about this student, too, because this student did not perform well on my reading quiz, which should have been a breeze after reading the novel four times. I still can’t figure out how that happened, but it makes me feel rotten. Talk about a motivation-killer.

I am teaching grammar, specifically phrases and clauses. I have some problems with the efficacy of this required part of my curriculum.

I had interesting conversations with a few senior students this week. They are presenting their Flat World Willy handbooks on Monday. The conversations we had centered around the idea that a few of the students recognize that I (and their other teachers) are trying to put together good learning experiences that are relevant to their lives, and I think they like the handbook assignment. But they are also frustrated by working with peers whose minds are already checked out. I have heard more than once, “I didn’t want to come to school, but I thought about you, Mrs. Huff, and how mad it makes you when we skip class.” I suppose I should be grateful that the students have empathy for my feelings after planning and being disappointed, but I wish they came to school because they wanted to learn. Their course loads have been pared down. They are doing internships in the afternoons. Their minds are on the colleges they will shortly be attending. I can empathize with them. I remember that feeling. Heck, I got accepted to grad school this week, and I was elated. Even though I am taking courses online, registering for my Virginia Tech personal identity so I could login and use all the resources available to me as a student made it feel very real — I feel like I am going back to school, and I am excited. But my students haven’t graduated yet, which is an important step to attending college, and I don’t want them to check out when have such a small amount of time together.

Related posts:

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.

Related posts:

Graduate School

I took a step and applied to Virginia Tech’s online graduate school to earn an Instructional Technology Master of Arts degree.  It looks like a good program, and I can do all of my studying online, which will help me a great deal, as I have small children at home and a full time job to think about.  I have been wanting to do this for a while, but frankly hadn’t found the right program to apply to until recently.  It’s kind of exciting to think that this time next year, I might be a Hokie.  Of course, some of you might say I’m already there (har, har).

Related posts: