Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

    Where to teach

    A new reader e-mails the following:
    Hello,
    I ran across your blogspot in an effort to discover colleges that I might apply
    to (to teach online). I JUST received my Master's in Elementary Ed. so I don't
    have very many options...as far as being qualified for teaching very much. I
    just wondered if you have any suggestions about where I could use my Master's
    to teach online? I have applied to Phoenix and am awaiting the next phase. They
    requested a whole packet of info, which I turned in...I am looking for more
    places to teach at, as I NEED the money desperately! And I have three small
    kids, so it's ideal for me not to have to leave home...
    Anyway, you are welcome to put this question on your blog, I just didn't want to
    take the time to set up a google account...so here I am.
    thanks so much!
    Sincerely,
    ~desperate for extra money :)

    This is a very trick question. Where to teach online has a lot to do with factors that you will have no control over: enrollment, fluctuations and moods of out-of-sight deans, etc.

    I would first begin asking, aside from the outright desperation, what sort of requirements you would be willing to fill. You sound, just by the note above, to be willing to accept just about anything. That will be fine for now, but watch out...the online faculty as pushed in ways onground are not.

    For instance, you will be asked to respond, in decent length and detail, to each and every posting, question or e-mail from your students. Not too bad if you have 1-3 sections, but it can get burdensome fast, especially once weekly grading kicks in. UofP is especially stringent about you answering questions in length (think 10 lines or so) to each student posting. You are expected to share a lot of yourself, your experience and your thoughts. If you can type quickly, you will be ahead of the game, but factor in at least an hour per day in answering each section. I didn't make that cut for them.

    Other schools will depend on their respective calls for Ed teachers. My experience is in Comp, so I don't know if I can recommend. I know that Capella prefers only PhDs. Baker College out of MI might be a place to look. Kaplan is another, although I don't know their Ed offerings.

    Staying home and grading is a great boon, but don't underestimate the time required. I feel, especially in the accelerated sections (UofP were 5 weeks long), you will be expected to put in a large amount of "face" time online.

    Hope this little bit helps.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    “Google is not research.”

    On the surface, this seems to be a self-evident truism; a bane of all instructors looking at the paltry bibliographies of their student’s “research” papers. A topic is assigned, the student does their due diligence by “Googling” expected key words, and undoubtedly one of those key terms turns up Wikipedia. Information is found, two more sites consulted and the topic is, according to the students, covered. Laptop case closed, time to move on.

    InsideHigherEd today offers a story about the Cornell Undergraduate Information Competency Initiative, which seeks an “understanding [of] how students perceive university research.” One of the expressed goals, as stated by Cornell professor Kathy Lee Berggren, is “to ‘really learn how to use a library whether they’re in it or not.’”

    Cornell’s summer seminar seeks to build on the work from Berkeley who, undergoing an accreditation review, sought to understand how to incorporate research skills into the course level of instruction. That is, instead of requiring a specific research course, Berkeley, on a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, sought to set up the framework by which research skills could be woven into the instruction of any course.

    What Berkeley and Cornell are both wrestling with is the complication of performing research in an iPod age. The players as I see them: “digital native” students, cranky, if well-meaning professors, Google and brick-n-mortar libraries. Oh yea, and Steve Jobs.

    First, the natives. Contemporary students come to college with a different set of expectations than they did even ten years ago. These students are not agog at the level and breadth of information available to them. Rather, they expect to be able to, within a few key strokes, to gain access to whatever information they seek. And, with aggregated search engines like Yahoo! and Google, they are, to a large extent, able to accomplish this. Want to know the background of the Boston Tea Party? Want to see dissenting opinions? Conspiracy theories? The YouTube parody? Incoming freshmen can provide, usually while listening to downloaded music streaming from a video-enabled iPod (or, if you teach at ACU, all accessed on their school-provided iPhone). Research is done dude!

    The cranky, if well-meaning professors, once confronted with such a bibliography, stare at the creatures seated in front of them and wonder, probably correctly, if these poor deluded punks have ever set foot in the hallowed halls of the school library. They haven’t. In their minds, they do not need to. Wake up old man, all of the information is now available online. If you want “deep” research, go to Google Scholar. There are all sorts of articles and things like that—even whole books now.

    And expectations clash.

    Libraries have done wonders in cataloging, compiling and generally making information accessible. I have no beef with them. They are, with a few notable exceptions, often lone wolfs, wandering the information plains with little support, scratched-together technology, and low budgets. They yearn for the students to come on in and use the catalogs so painstakingly compiled, the databases built from competing platforms. They even have an online portal offered up for dorm access. They have built it…they will come.

    A user is able to access a vast catalog of downloaded/ripped songs by using only one fingers—usually the thumb. By spinning the wheel, even a novice user can quickly find the song/podcast lecture she is seeking within a few seconds, even from a list of thousands. Form meets function, and the case is cool and sleek and it works and the information becomes subordinate to the users. The thumb is in charge, and the streaming sounds confirm that, at least here, the world works, as it should. Steve Jobs has provided the user with a user experience that confirms, at least for most, the promises of the web hype—the tool from the bubble.

    What the Natives don’t get, and the Profs know, is that the Net does not cast the skein that one might assume. That is, there are some big holes in that Net. The Libraries have worked to fills these gaps (consortiums, partnerships, etc.), but their work doesn’t always get the notice or exposure. Here is where the fault lines of generational expectations come into stark relief: Profs expect students to march into the library and acquaint themselves with the subject’s/discipline’s fiefdom. If not, then the student is lazy and lacks the necessary drive or will. The Natives don’t expect to have to navigate fiefdoms. For them, at least thus far, knowledge and data have been without borders. It does not occur to them that there would be a specific database for articles about Colonial literature that is not accessible through a quick key-word search from their dorm.

    So, committees will form, grants will be given and studies will recommend that individual professors seek to imbue a research skill-set into their objectives. And without a standard (either a collective standard (MLA) or an organizational approach (ie Google)), the Natives and the Profs will continue to lament just how odd, lazy, out-of-touch, etc. the other is.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Interesting "facts"

    I got this list as an e-mail forward, so it must be all true:

    -Scientists say the higher your I.Q. The more you dream.
    >
    >
    > -The largest cell in the human body is the female egg and the smallest is
    > the male sperm.
    >
    > -You use 200 muscles to take one step.
    >
    > -The average woman is 5 inches shorter than the average man.
    >
    > -Your big toes have two bones each while the rest have three.
    >
    > -A pair of human feet contains 250,000 sweat glands.
    >
    > -A full bladder is roughly the size of a soft ball.
    >
    > -The acid in your stomach is strong enough to dissolve razor blades.
    >
    > -The human brain cell can hold 5 times as much information as the
    > Encyclopedia Britannica.
    >
    > -It takes the food seven seconds to get from your mouth to your stomach.
    >
    > -The average human dream lasts 2-3 seconds.
    >
    > -At the moment of conception, you spent about half an hour as a single
    > cell.
    >
    > -There is about one trillion bacteria on each of your feet.
    >
    > -Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of
    > water to a boil.
    >
    > -The enamel in your teeth is the hardest substance in your body.
    >
    > -Your teeth start growing 6 months before you are born
    >
    > -When you are looking at someone you love, your pupils dilate, and they do
    > the same when you are looking at someone you hate.
    >
    > -Your thumb is the same length of your nose.
    >
    > At this very moment I know full well you are putting this last fact to the
    > test...now remove your thumb from your nose and pass this on to the
    > friends you think might be interested in comparing their thumbs to their
    > noses as well! :-)

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Monday, May 19, 2008

    BlackBoard should "opt out"

    InsideHigherEd wrote about Blackboard syncing with Facebook to provide a class link (which is what ultimately worked out) through the social networking site. BlackBoard, in doing so, comes off as a the creepy old dude still trying to look cool.

    One of the comments makes a link here where the phrase "creepy tree house effect" is discussed, which is pretty accurate for a neologism.

    One of the comments to the creepy tree house effect discusses, quite well, how she tried twitter as an opt in class aid.

    To all of this I say: keep the class out of socializing. That is, by drawing a clear demarcation between class time and social time, a whole set of confusing, embarrassing, and/or inappropriate blurring of personal/professional.

    Why would BlackBoard want to interface on FaceBook? Because students don't want to log on to BB's interface? Then create an RSS feed for updates to be spammed out.

    Because students spend a lot of time on Facebook and not on the BB site? Then make the BB site more usable--key interfaces with the library, with sources, may a link-in with OneNote or the like...

    Point is, quit trying to be "cool" and be functional. Let the students and profs work out the time spent on task, and leave the socializing to the hallways.

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Friday, May 02, 2008

    Turn It In.com can pay me to go to SF


    InsideHigherEd has a story, with some attempt at breathless expose, outlining TII's solicitation to pay travel to San Fransisco's CCCC convention next year. Catch is, the paper should be nice to TII. The same paper has to be initially approved by the CCCC committee, but that fact appears only marginally in the story (or it may have only cropped up in the comments).

    Here is what I said:

    In my poverty-stricken adjunct days, I would have jumped at the chance to present at a national conference about a tool whose use I employed for the 12 odd years I taught. I would have jumped to present the limitations of the tools (which there are) in order to present the context of its use (as an automated policing tool). Why, because I was poor, the tool worked, and it freed up my time. Plus, there are little opportunities for an adjunct to play on the big stage.

    Would it have been like "win a free trip to SF?" You betcha, but not just to see the Golden Gate, but, again, to play on the larger professional stage.

    I second making the payment public (I would be one of those whose initial submission may or may not be what is actually presented--tickets, once purchased, cannot be taken back). CCCC needs to enter the adult world where financial interests compete with scholarship (medicine has been doing it for years). Monitor, yes. Disclose, yes. Allow for a range of voices that may not have been heard, yes.

    Worst case, you walk out of a commercial posing as a paper. Best case, you hear from that small town CC whose adjunct has something interesting to say.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

    Online Adjunct--how much can it pay

    A very intrepid reader browsed through a long-lost post and posed the following question:

    I have taught as an adjunct in both an online in class instructor. Obviously, I'm not rolling in the cash from it. So imagine my surprise when I talked to a guy who is the head of a major corporation in the city where I live. He talked about a 6-figure supplement he was making from teaching online. I was really suspicious, calculating that he would have to teach about 60 classes a year (in addition to a full-time job and family) to make that kind of money. I mentioned my confusion and he said that over time he has found the highest paying online universities that have "not overwhelming" time commitments and he's done it that way. Do you think it's possible?
    The short answer is: he is full of Bush. That is, no way he is earning six figures adjuncting online. I went into the salary breakdown in some detail less than a year ago, and I think the numbers there still stand.

    I stated that for one institution (3 classes per six week term), one could earn $30K/year. For six figures, one would need to teach at 4 schools (3.5 or something), averaging 12 classes at one time (average of 12-15 students per class) for a total of 144-168 students every six weeks.

    Is this possible? Yes. But with some major caveats: composition could NOT be the subject. In fact, I would argue that no subject requiring qualitative/subjective feedback would allow for this. Perhaps a hard science, math or the like COULD allow for this (standardized, automated test; defined course pack; limited to no teacher-student feedback/interaction), but then the prof is really not teaching is she.

    So, by definition, good teaching really cannot stand up to that sort of load.

    If you are able, somehow, to pull this off, let us know. Scrub the names, but give us the numbers. Is online adjuncting into six figures possible?

    Give us some hope.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    The Few...


    The Family has been reeling with some, shall I say, "impacting" news of late. Lovely Wife is the older of 7. The youngest brother, without much discussion, enlisted. He left for San Diego on Monday.

    The reaction with the Family has been mixed, and a little strange. I am married into the Family, so I still, even after ten years, have an outsider's sense. The immediate members, LW, her twin and the sisters were all adamantly against enlistment. "Why would you enlist when we are at war?" "What are you thinking...?" Those sorts of questions.

    The brothers and uncles, though, have a more jaundiced view: "It will do him good." "He needs direction..." That sort of thing.

    So, he was feted over the weekend and shipped off.

    We did not go to the fete. In fact, LW cried off and on, mourning her little brother, fearful of how the experience will play out with him. We both acknowledge/understand the current deployment pressures: stop-loss, extended tours, multiple deployments. No one else in the family, though, seems to accept these as facts. "Once Bush is out of office, things will be better." "He will be in Korea, not in Iraq." "Things will be fine."

    I don't think our family is unique in this sort of behavior, and I am ambivalent about his enlistment myself. Do I honor service? Yes. My freedoms come at a great cost. Do I think the service our soldiers give is well repaid to them? Not even close (VA neglect, lack of adequate equipment, the list is long and sad). Do I want my brother-in-law in the middle of the current mess? Not in the least.

    I will address the "letters to the mothers" tomorrow.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008