Monday Night Class Madness

My IM554 class started early and ended late; I was only clued in to the ending late part and joined class at our usual 6 pm time — only to find out class started at 5 pm., though many students and the instructor also joined later.

The class sweated through numerous technical difficulties as participants tried to give their online presentations. Yours truly figured out how to upload her presentation but couldn’t get the mike to work. We had low sound, no sound and alien sound coming through the computers. Add a barking dog to the mix and it was quite the class. Several of us had to come back to our presentations and try again after the technically adept gave their presentations.

Luckily, after calling my husband and venting through tears and curses, I was able to fix my computer settings and gave an absolutely riveting presentation (not) on iPods and Somali adult learners. The conclusion I came to in my paper was that creating original podcasts on leadership topics first in English, and tthen translating them into Somali, would benefit the learners in the class I facilitate a great deal.

The adult Somali students who I surveyed wanted me to create the podcasts right away, of course; they said if the things we discussed in the leadership class were translated into Somali, some of the less English-proficient Somali community members would be able to access the training. I’m sure I will figure out how to do this someday — in a cost-efficient way — but first I have to do more research. Better to delay the project rather than bungle it and lose supporters.

By the time I presented, however, we’d lost the instructor to the technology devil, so she missed my presentation: First she lost sound and then she disappeared from class all together. Luckily, one of the students, Julie, was able to take over the facilitator role; she did an outstanding job calming the class and getting all the presentations done.

Next Monday (December 13) will be our last class, and I will miss my classmates. Even though we’ve never really met in person, they’ve been a boon to me in this class, whether helping me through a computer problem or understanding my frustration with online learning. I still prefer the fact-to-face contact in a traditional classroom setting, but it’s nice to know that I can survive an online class.

Until my next blog…

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Adapting my class to non-visual learners — are podcasts the answer?

This past week there were no assigned readings or posts – and I sorely missed the community learning time with my classmates. While interaction isn’t face-to-face in an online learning community, I’ve gotten to know several class members by the way they approach assignments and the comments they post.

I stayed busy, however, doing research on my paper. The topic: Using iPods to help non-native English speakers in the leadership course I teach. I learned the hard way that handouts are useless for participants who don’t read English very well and, with some Somali students, even handouts translated in their own language would be useless because they aren’t literate in reading Somali, either.

The written Somali language was introduced in 1972 and there was a heavy push by the government to educate the populace. However, by 1991, the government was collapsing and public schools were shut down. The window of time to educate Somalis how to read their own language was very small. Many of the children born or raised in the settlement camps since then have received no formal education of any kind.

In the United States, we rely so much on visuals to communicate that we often forget about learners whose learning preferences are different or are dictated by their culture. I noticed many of my African refugee or immigrant students listened intently to what was being said in class, but they didn’t take any notes nor were they reading the handouts. They’d come from a background that relied heavily on oral traditions and passed culture and learning down through songs and stories.

My challenge is to adapt my class to accommodate participants whose learning preferences are auditory or hands-on; using podcasts may be one way to do that. Keep checking back, I’ll let you know what I learn…

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World of Which Craft?

Meet Mata Darkward, klutzy, dorky Second Life avatar of a klutzy, dorky, real person – me. Mata can’t fly without landing with a face plant, she can’t change her appearance, and she can barely walk… Is there no hope for Mata Darkward?

This past week’s class explored multi-user virtual environments (MUVE) and massively multiplayer online games (MMOG). The experience reaffirmed my position that I have no business in virtual worlds. My ineptness showed as I struggled to master even the basics in Second Life.

Because the experience taught me nothing more than I suck at computer games, I consulted a master World of Warcraft player — my adult son. He’s played WoW for many, many years – mostly in my basement — so his expertise is extensive. In fact, for a long time, WoW was the only world in which he really socialized: He even met his wife online playing WoW. He courted her by having his character die in front of her character, which is a healer. She brought his character back to life and he continued to “kill” himself until she finally agreed to talk with him in the real world.

My son has Asperger’s Syndrome (he was diagnosed at the age of 30 years), so his in-person social skills are not as developed as his peers. Playing WoW was/is a way for him to socialize without all the real-life awkwardness. He was safe in that world – even if he died a lot – and was judged on his gaming skills instead of his social skills.

I asked him if he’d learned anything of value playing WoW and he came up with an extensive list: Eye-hand coordination; applied logic; complex math calculations; strategic planning; and how to better socialize. He said without WoW, he wouldn’t have met his wife and, if he’d had to court her in real life, it would have been more difficult

While I understand playing WoW provides some skill-learning experiences (and I got a daughter-in-law through the game), it shouldn’t be a substitute for real life. Though my son and his wife still play WoW, they now spend more time socializing in the real world. And that’s a lot healthier.

The last bit of advice my son gave me was to give up on Second Life and join WoW. He said I’d make a perfect shaman – a healer. Hmm…Mata Darkward – heal thyself!?

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Open course, source and resource

Wow – I can’t believe our class has finished Week 11! After reading many articles about open course ware, source ware and share ware (because, of course, you can’t read just one), I’m ware-n out. I also “acted” as my group’s moderator for the week, so I checked out some of the resources cited and got caught up in reading even more articles.
One blog I came across is quite interesting: e-Literate: What Michael Feldstein is Learning About Online Learning…Online. According to his blogsite, “Michael Feldstein is Principal Product Strategy Manager for Academic Enterprise Solutions (formerly Academic Enterprise Initiative, or AEI) at Oracle Corporation.  (Whew!)

If you’re interested in getting different perspectives on e-learning, check out Feldstein’s site, http://www.mfeldstein.com. Not only do you get insights from an insider, but he uses guest bloggers as well.

I came across the website following a lead while doing research on open education resources: Thoughts On Anya Kamenetz and the Open Education Movement. Of course I had to follow the links to her video interview and recent article, which led me to… Well, you get the idea. After reading Feldstein’s critique, I ended up reading posted responses and got quite involved… and came across another interesting resource: http://learningspaces.org.

If you’re interested in online learning, be sure to check out these websites – you never know where it’ll lead you.

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iPads, iWonder?

Another week, more e-learning information… This week focused on different wireless, hand-held devices. Being a “Mac Girl,” I was more than happy to explore the world of the iPad.

Forget about using the iPad to just email others or play games and music, some upscale resorts are using the iPad to replace their menus. They can update the menu instantly and save paper at the same time. Several U.S. city councils are switching from paper to “Pad” as well, saving themselves a bundle on paper costs — what a green concept!

The iPad works as an e-reader, as well, so one can instantly download a new bestseller and begin reading it in minutes — without ever leaving one’s home — saving paper, time and gas. How convenient! And if Steve Jobs has his way, e-readers would be able to subscribe to newspapers through an iPad app.

Employees can easily stay connected to the office while traveling, create charts and graphs, and compose emails and presentations. The iPad is a veritable work horse!

Convenient to use, the iPad would easily fit into my purse — if I had an iPad. I’m still hesitating to buy one, and it’s not the cost that keeps me from making the iPlunge, even though it’s a bit pricey.

While it’s all very exciting about how this new technology is rapidly changing the way people work and play — and I applaud efforts to save trees and money — I also have some nagging worries about the switch from paper to “Pad.”

Some of it’s personal preference. I like the feel of a book in my hands and seeing the artwork the way it’s meant to be seen; there’s something about turning the pages and bookmarking passages to be savored again and again. It’s difficult getting the same tactile sensation from a hunk of plastic.

And is the trade-off of saving paper and trees the dumping of out-dated iPads and other iTechnologies into landfills? Which lasts longer in the trash — paper or plastic?

One last concern: If we continue on the path to “all electronics, all the time,” d0n’t we leave behind those who can’t afford or can’t learn how to use the new technologies? Just wondering…

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Podcasting is cool!

I really enjoyed this week’s IM554 lesson on podcasting, vodcasting and podcatching! Not only did I learn a lot about podcasting, but I also learned about many different subjects as I went from one podcast to another. I now want to make podcasts of my own.

You, too, can make podcasts: If you want to learn how easy it is to create a podcast, check out Lee Lefever’s “Podcasting in Plain English” at http://www.commoncraft.com/podcasting. It made the process so clear to me. And I also learned about how to create and use a Wiki — another Web 2.0 technology that eluded me. I’m stoked about using some of the things I just learned!

In the leadership class I facilitate for people who are low income or new Americans, I often have to explain things verbally because some learners have difficulty with written English. I can see how a podcast would help some of my learners who come from backgrounds where they didn’t have much exposure to the written word and passed down their culture orally. One particular group in mind is new Somali Americans.

After hearing some of their stories about their first exposure to things like electric lights, indoor bathrooms and smoke detectors — and how little they understood many of the things native Americans take for granted — podcasts in English/Somali might be valuable to help explain things to them.

I’m very anxious to try out my theory and use podcasts in my classes. I’ll blog the results when I get them.

Podcasts are cool!

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Reflections

What a week! Between eldest daughter of elderly parents duties, a full-time job which includes teaching a class at night and one on Saturday, and my graduate class, I think my mind is a little fried.

But there has been melding of some of my different worlds…

I started watching TED videos and was amazed at the wealth of knowledge available to me — and it’s all free. I don’t have to sign up or pay for classes, I don’t have to have a certain educational degree, no prerequisite courses — I just have to have curiousity about something, type in the keywords, and then select from a vast array of results!

This past weekend, I heard Thomas Friedman explain how the world is flat and then listened to some of his critics discuss how Thomas Friedman is full of it. I also watched videos on examples of B.F. Skinner’s behaviorist theories and learned more about constructivism. It is so cool being able to see examples of different theories in practice — it truly makes a lesson come alive and a theory more approachable.

After watching several video clips, I showed my 83-year-old father how to access the different video websites on his computer; I figured it was better for him than to play mindless online computer games all day. My dad has always had an unquenchable curiousity about the world and how it works, and he instilled his passion for learning in me. I was happy to repay him for the favor.

After we checked out a few sites, my father really enjoyed having his world of information expanded beyond the daily newspaper and weekly Time magazine. For him, it was better than getting information from TV because, if he missed a word or didn’t understand something, he could replay the clip; and it was better than his print media because he didn’t have to worry about recycling anything.

So I got to share what I’m learning in class with my dad, and he’s still able to learn about and experience the evolving world. As for my mom, she’s still happy just playing online solitaire.

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