Thursday, February 28, 2008

    What a student sees: OR learning today

    I find the embedded video interesting more for the approach than the content. This, like mentioned in the last post, uses a classroom assignment to design digital content that is the published to the larger audience.

    Given the reality-TV generation's desire to share themselves, I find these sorts of assignments much better aligned with future job requirements.

    I mean, really, when is the last time your job called for a 10 page essay on the fashion of 18th century theater? A presentation about some arcane technical initiative? Yes.

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    teaching on the cutting edge

    I noted in my last post that ACU is going to give away an iPhone to incoming freshmen. has an article about Duke's foray into giving away iPods. What follows is the bulleted conclusions from Duke along with my professional, Instructional Designer opinion.

    • More than 600 students were in courses using the iPods each semester of the academic year that just concluded. A decent pool of students, but back in 2005 I don't think that the iPod had video capacity. This means that the school was relying solely on audio content. One sensory approach will have limited appeal/success.
    • Use was greatest among foreign language and music courses, although a range of disciplines used the devices. These courses will have the most accessible audio content (remember those language labs with the cassette players?)--and of course music. I can see a real boon for both of these areas.
    • While audio playback was the initial focus of most of those involved, students and faculty reported the greatest interest in digital recording. I don't really know what this bullet point is trying to say...Did the experiment result in more illegal downloads (hey, I have the hardware, let's get Kazaa!) or did they want to move to the newer iPods with the video screen (music videos!). Again, content, or the lack of, would be the killer (see below).
    • The effort was hurt by a lack of systems for bulk purchases of mp3 audio content for academic use. iTunes debuted in January, 2001. In that four years, music had begun porting, but podcasting, especially academic podcasting, was of limited appeal. It was like downloading a sermon--lots of audio of some guy talking about something or the other. Not really dynamic.
    • There are many “inherent limitations” in the iPod, such as the lack of instructor tools for combining text and audio. Here is the real heart of the experiment--and I think this point is mistaken. It was not so much that there was limited tools, but a profound lack of understanding or insight in how to use the tools that were available. Or, more to the point, how to envision digital instruction (see more below).
    • Some recordings made with the iPod were not of high enough quality for academic use. Speaking into a computer mike is the audio equivalent of using a webcam for broadcasting video. It is overreaching the mediums capacity.
    • The project resulted in increased collaboration among faculty members and technology officials at the university, and the publicity about the project led to more collaborations with other institutions. Don't overlook this benefit. Anything, and I mean anything, that gets faculty talking to the gear-heads is a good thing. Anything that encourages faculty to question how to present material is a good thing. I think this point would have made the whole experiment worth the cost--and to ACU, here is where you need to focus your attention.
    If you are thinking about moving to the present-future, keep some of this in mind. Your students will know how to use/envision the hardware much better than you. Ask them what they might like to see (RSS feeds on assignments?; meeting notices for study groups?; better integration into a digital platform like BlackBoard?--I got more).

    The kernal of the problem lies in content. The old-line book, pencil and lecture will not be enhanced by an iPhone, and if that is all the instructors will do, then they are wasting their mission money.

    If, though, ACU continues along the line they are, then I feel that this experiment will produce measurable results.

    For example, perhaps in anticipation to the general announcement, ACU has positioned their website to accommodate lurkers (like myself). Clicking the visitor option, you are taken to ACU's presence in iTunes.

    The content available, which I am sure to grow, includes both audio and video options. For example, the theater department includes a fairly good "Staging Shakespeare" which, while a static slideshow montage moving behind a sit-down interview, the quality and content is, on the whole, interesting. And, it looks as if it could be created with standard Apple applications.

    A similar selection can be found in Kyle Dickson's Brit Lit course. His approach, which I think is both smart and appropriate, is to encourage the students of a given section to create the content--group projects that are digitally updated. Again, taking spoken audio the student presentations provide voice-over for slides (images I am sure are not in violation of copyright). The engagement factor, though, comes from how the students are encouraged to approach the material. One example had a discussion of 18th century fashion presented by two, modern fashionistas (think red carpet commentary). Upbeat, engaging, it was a strong student production. It was also, even for this watcher, engaging.

    More to come.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

    Back on the Chain Gang

    I am beginning to settle back into a kind of routine. In case you missed, here is a three-month review:

    • Applied to local university for an Instructional Design position--which I am radically qualified for (I have working knowledge of the tools, experience with designing instructional material for adult learners--its been my friggin job for ten years--and experience as an online instructor--my future audience).
    • Didn't make the first cut
    • Took a project that had me traveling to a new town each week--gets old fast
    • local university calls back and indicates the three candidates they brought in all failed to impress--would I apply again
    • I apply again
    • Take a net-based, webinar one week gig. Worked fine.
    • Again did not make the phone interview cut
    • Drove the family cross the plains to teach for a week
    • Family got really sick--awful flu season, this one
    • Interviewed with and was offered a job the next day
    • Now working full time--project-based instructional design and delivery
    • No higher education work at all

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Ovulate and get what you want

    Lovely Wife and I were just discussing our own observations of this around the house. It seems that we act, that's right, "we" act differently upon ovulation. I am, apparently, more caressing, but with some slight aggression. She is downright more aggressive.

    Appears there is scientific studies to point out that interactions of all stripes are affected by the hormonal surge. Psychology Today (pulled from online, so I don't know when it was "published") notes a study linking ovulation to higher per/hour wages by exotic dancers. Appears that those on the pill averaged a much lower per hour rate.

    So, track your days, and then ask for what you really want but haven't been able to get.

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    Response to TA T-and-A

    The following comes from one of the responses to the grad-stripper column from
    I felt it directly related to the theme of this blog, so I copy it completely from here:

    Good luck

    One of the things they don't tell you when you enter a PhD program is that you better have family money either from parents or a spouse or don't even think about starting. As this poor woman points out most grad students only get funded for a couple of years of what for most is at least, at least, a 5-6 year endeavor. And for that matter "funding" usually means enough money to share an apartment. In my experience at a fairly prestigious humanities department, the most successful students were not necessarily the brightest but the ones who had spouses to support them. As competitive as the academic market is, one pretty much has to have not only a dissertation, but a publication record when you apply for jobs. Many, like me, had to work full-time just to support ourselves, which leaves little time for what is in essence another full-time job.

    Unfortunately I have no solution to offer for this young woman's dilemmma. But God love 'er for finding a way out of the grad student vicious circle, at least for a while.

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    Nude PhDs: TA T-and-A

    As a daily reader of, I seldom have a chance to link my blog to my reading. Today that changed.

    The local advice column, "Since you Asked," often has the regular, ho-hum advice seekers. But there is something about a grad student stripper asking for advice that caught my attention.

    Her problem, as a liberal arts major, is paying for the last bit of work without school help. She admits to being a TA in the past, which only brings more possible links between her two worlds.

    Read the letters, which are supportive and full of good advice (go farther away for a couple of weeks, bank the cash, and then crank out the diss.).

    I think there are some interesting issues to tease out here: future positions ruined through a Google search, random posting of phone pics into Facebook, freedom of expression/speech.

    I am afraid that in reference to hiring, there is not much liberal in the liberal arts.

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