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September 27, 2007

Study group September 27, 2007

We met! We being 4 people, which is a decent number for a start, and it allows everyone to have a big stake in the conversation.

Points of discussion:

- Discussion assignment descriptions do not fit our process very well. We all tend to not only summarize the reading but also jump right into application ramifications in the first post, rather than wait until the third post of the week. Some students have difficulty summarizing the reading after the first person has done so. I've run into this myself when teaching online; students question the value of writing mostly the same thing that the first student wrote. The assumption is that the first person got "the answer" and there is nothing more to say. They don't consider that the first author's interpretation may actually have been inadequate or that they may find something unique to write from their point of view. How do we get around this?

- Some of the students who met are going well beyond the requirements of the assignment while still feeling that their contribution is not sufficient.

- Students are starting to work on topic selection for the two three-credit courses and finding a partner for some of the assignments. This is promising, especially since some presentations need to be done in a couple of weeks!

September 21, 2007

Study group canceled

I canceled the evening study group for 9/20/07 since no one was committed to attending that one. A couple of people have expressed interest in doing it next week, however.

September 20, 2007

Morning study group a bust

First attempt at having a cohort reading/writing group looks like a bust. I'm here (3rd floor Kirby lounge - near our summer classroom), but everyone else is at least a half-hour late.

The perpetual problem of scheduling adult, non-traditional students to engage in face to face sessions remains in effect. Also, the constant problem with all students - what doesn't directly result in a grade - may come into play here as well. Location confusion may also be a contributing factor, although this space should be one familiar to all members of our cohort.

I'm not mad. I'll keep trying to get this organized since I know from experience that a lot of the transferable learning in becoming an academic happens in these sessions. But it is a mark of what does not work well with a hybrid situation, especially one that involves busy adults.

We'll see how the session at 7:00 pm tonight goes.

September 18, 2007

Study groups September 20, 2007

This week, we are setting up study groups! Agenda is TBD, based on what attendees need at the moment.

Rod already hosted one informal meeting at the Burrito Union to which about 1/3 of the cohort came. That one was largely to try to get our heads around the course requirements and navigation schema for this fall's classes in Moodle.

Thursday, we start up two meetings (one morning and one night) to focus longer term on how to read and how to write at a doctoral level. A lot of us have been out of school for a long time. Even those fresh out of a master's program may need to adjust to the amount of reading and scope of writing at the next rung of the ladder.

I hope that we can set aside weekly or semi-monthly sessions to work on two prime academic skills together and get enough people in each time slot to sustain the effort. We'll see - and I'll try to remember to post at least meeting dates in this blog - if not specifics on what we covered.

September 12, 2007

Journal of Interactive Online Learning

Yet another journal. This one seems to focus on higher education populations in online learning. It might be a good resource to inform our research with middle school kids in virtual worlds. But what I really need is to get some articles published somewhere....

Link: http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/about.html

September 11, 2007

The Problem with FITness for Girls

Ever since I joined the Tech Savvy Girls project, I've been trying to figure out what bothers me about the fit between its mission and my own. Since November 2006, I've been uneasy. And it is because their mission and mine don't align perfectly. In fact, in many ways, the two are at odds.

The Tech Savvy Girls project as well as the larger pop.cosmopolitanism study are great Don't get me wrong. They both have great ideas to offer to academia, education, and the population as a whole.

But both are focusing on making girls in particular and school-aged children in general competent users of information and computation tools. They aim to help the next generation be creators - of art or information or artifacts - and critical users of the current and emerging information tools. As such, they treat the tools themselves as useful but advocate avoiding the study of the tools as significant in themselves. The word of the day is integration. And any attempts I've made to concentrate on information technology and computers (and even science and math) per se have been met with the counter that studying these things out of context is the wrong, old-fashioned mind-set. We're using the FITness standards as our guidelines, which inform schools about how the average citizen should be capable of using computers in their lives. But that set of standards doesn't have anything to say about the understanding children need in order to become the backbone of a scientifically advanced and technologically innovative society. We are still teaching kids to use the tools. We're not opening the box and explaining to them that they can be the ones making the tools.

I find myself concerned. Information technology and computer science are still viable topics in their own right. They are as important as art, as literature, as games, or as education as subjects of study. While, yes, they should be integrated into all studies at a basic level, when do we explain to kids that there are deeper aspects to understanding computers and information? That someone, somewhere should figure out a better way to encode data, to build a faster or smaller computer, or to build a functional 3-D display for all that gorgeous digital art we can only see in 2-D?

And when to do we explain to girls that they can be the ones who go deeper? The next big breakthrough in storage speed and capacity could be a woman as much as a man, if only we would stop dumbing down the curriculum and spewing platitudes about teaching technology, science, and math "in context"!

The current project I'm working on is trying to raise the bar on defining the basics, and making sure that the majority of children get a chance to meet that bar. But I'm trying to encourage women to be among those who are jumping well over the minimum. How do we do that?

September 10, 2007

Teacher, Proof-Read Thyself

Today, I received a communication from a professor. I won't name names, but any of my current three professors should probably heed this advice.

Teacher, proof-read your own writing!

At the request of faculty a number of years ago, I started occasionally teaching writing classes for pre-service teachers and graduate students. The professors complained about the lack of quality in their students' work. Mis-used punctuation, plural vs. possessive confusion, spelling errors, incorrect word usage, etc. were all trotted out as inexcusable errors on the part of educators. It didn't matter whether or not it was in an email or a term paper. Such things should never flow out of the keyboard of those responsible for educating the next generation. It was the fault of all that damn technology any way.

Imagine my vast amusement then, as I read syllabi, email, and even articles to be submitted for publication with multiple, common errors - all coming from professors who would castigate their students for an equivalent quality of work. None of these people are young. Marc Prensky would put them firmly in the digital immigrant category. They grew up reading the classics in print, so they cannot claim that they were misguided by the errors of the digital age and the denigration of quality that has supposedly resulted.

It may be true that students read less than they once did. Or it may not. But it is dead certain that students are exposed to poor writing by the very people who hold themselves up to be the standard of excellence, which can only be confusing at best.

Teacher, be a good example. Proof-read your work as you would a primer - because, quite frankly, it is.