Catch-Up?

Thought I might be able to catch up in the class… Not going to happen:-( Technology really isn’t my thing. I use it at work all day and love the many things it affords but the fact is, the students our school serves can’t afford technology and adoption of more and more tech mediated “schooling” is simply pushing them away. It might be that a new form of teaching growing from tech will help? Tech itself will remain a rich kids toy and out of our students’ lives for some time to come.

That said, even here in the far north, technology is important and our best chance of getting some part of it to our marginalized students is by having their teachers introduce it in a way that pares it down to being affordable and relevant. Only… are the faculty actually interested? Up to now part of the reason we haven’t been able to connect to all the great things that might help distribute education is the lack of faculty interest in teaching applications that don’t reach “their” students. Most see no advantage and some refuse to adopt even Moodle use and this is a significant factor.

Or I think that’s it. For years I’ve been feeding tech tips and free training courses like this one into the faculty development department system at work without any response or evidence of it being used. It’s frustrating and after years of it I was just deciding to give up and along comes our brand new dean of Teaching and Learning asking me to build all the information into a “Faculty Resource” in the shared folder area we use for cross-department messaging. (Turns out the new dean helped build a program in “Hope Studies” and nursing theory that I volunteered to help pilot a few years back through another college so not all free courses come to nothing).

Not entirely sure what to include but I’ve got at best a month before the person who “runs” faculty training gets back from sick leave. In addition the person who’s been hired to help her comes on board soon too and the silo doors will slam closed again. This has to be done from home as there is too much work at work at the moment to stop work on current projects during paid time for this. Anyway, in the weird world of education I’m “not qualified” to do this and paying me challenges the notion that learning is strictly confined to the school room to be of any real value:-)

Not sure where to start? Tutorials in Moodle come to mind as a beginning. We have two people to provide help with Moodle who naturally need to attend to the students first. Not sure why the instructional staff have been avoiding Moodle as every class we offer is either based in it or has a companion site tied into it. It could be that training allowances allow people to go away and PD happens on lunch breaks without compensation. (People are overworked and need their lunches).

Doesn’t matter, with cut-backs our Moodle help will be dedicated to student needs only and faculty will have to train through PD–and now prove they have taken the training. By the way, this is a stage all schools will experience as cut-backs gut staff and all the informal relationships that sustain the organization (like my informal Moodle help services to instructors off the side of my desk) disappear.

Time to start collecting Moodle tutorials. Already have a list to review and also think I’ll throw in some samples of quality sites for extra course content. We hired someone last year who collected thousands of mostly candy and fortunately this spring we have someone new who sends in great stuff. It might be worth doing a compare and contrast to explain the difference? Might have time.

Speaking of this here is a good site for scientific images and short lessons:
2012 International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge
> http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6119/518.full <

And a good picture of street proofed Little Red Riding Hood:

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Comments

  • jennymackness  On April 2, 2013 at 12:21 AM

    Hi Scott -here’s a quick initial response as I have to be ‘out of the door’ pretty soon and won’t be back till this evening.

    Your post made me think two things:

    First – is it important to catch up? I suppose it depends on whether or not you want/need the POTCert Certificate. It may be more valuable to focus on the parts of the POTCert course that are going to be of real value to you in your working life – or maybe life in general? It sounds like you have a lot on your plate and plenty to occupy your time :-)

    Second, it doesn’t sound to me that technology is going to solve your problems. It’s interesting that you think that tecchnology is pushing your students away. I must think about that a bit more.

    In thinking of this just briefly before I dash off, I was reminded of two texts.

    1. The Art of War – Sun Tzu (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_War) which I haven’t yet read but have heard a few people talking about in terms of ‘how to win the war without joining it’.

    2. The work of Julia Balogun on strategic change in organisations – the pdf is available on the web – search for Julia Balogun – Management Quarterly Part 10 Jan 2001. Her focus is on changing the culture of the organisation.

    Must dash – but will come back later :-)

    Jenny

    • scottx5  On April 2, 2013 at 7:51 PM

      Hi Jenny,
      Ordered “The Art of War” from the library today. It’s not available anywhere in the Province of Alberta so I had to go further west to get it. Given the cuts to education here by the Alberta government it appears this book has become suddenly popular again. Also downloaded “Strategic Change” by Julia Balogun and will read tonight.

      My job ends on June 30. This worries me a bit except as it’s the 5th or 6th time I’ve been dumped it feels more like a cycle than an end. Being adaptable helps in an industry where people train for years to do one thing. I also work cheap.

      There are options I could focus on to do a form of catching up:
      • Working on a Power Engineer course (aka stationary engineer) requiring video supplements in need of assessment guides. Working on that now.
      • New dean of teaching and learning has some research tracking online student satisfaction–have done this before and would need a qualified partner which I believe we have.
      • Assembling a guide for our instructors moving to online teaching. Original plan was to assemble courses like POTCERT and do some pre-course coaching to get them started. Versions of this have been tried without success and it seems to me I’ve read that early adopters of online teaching are people already accustomed to exploration and uncertainty. Many of our remaining teachers are veterans of a different world and just getting them onto the internet to build some bit of confidence would be the most powerful first step.

      There are other things to explore and I’m not giving up on my “career” in education. Given my record it might be wise to ignore my advice though a blog series on being made redundant could end up being a start to a popular course. One third of our faculty and staff were wiped away Thursday last week and feeling defeated is popular here right now. I’m lucky to be familiar with the process and able to write about it.

      On the subject of mobile applications I think that’s a good idea. Here in Canada we pay the highest rates for mobile service in the world and are falling behind the world. That said, every student rich or poor has one and though our student base has been reduced by 50% with the removal of remedial funding, these are the people most in need of education and we need to get it to them whatever it takes. Funding? Work on that later.

  • jennymackness  On April 2, 2013 at 1:08 AM

    One more quick thought – and then I really really must dash – whilst tech might be a rich kid’s toy – do your students have mobile phones/smart phones? There is so much that can be done now with mobiles?

  • jennymackness  On April 3, 2013 at 1:21 AM

    Scott, so sorry to hear that you will be losing your job in June. It must be a worrying time, although you seem to have plenty of ideas for what you could continue to work on. Aso a blog series of being made redundant sounds as though it would be both interesting and useful for many people.

    In June/July I will be participating in/ working on a Coursera MOOC – Growing Old Around the Globe, being offered by University of Pennsylvania (it hasn’t been advertised yet). Whilst the course will focus on ‘ageing’, I should imagine that stories of redundancy and how to continue working as we grow older, will feature in course discussions.

    • scottx5  On April 3, 2013 at 10:02 PM

      Want to thank you for the tip on Julia Balogun and strategic change. Reading it has been helpful in attempting to make sense of what’s happening at work. We’ve spent a couple of years locked out of a cultural web that seemed immovable. There were just too many arrangements and understandings in place. Being isolated and unaware of a changing world outside muted awareness of the need to change. Also, when people believe something works they have no desire or energy for change–it seems senseless to them. This crash of the institution may allow us to restructure without the unnecessary politics that have drained our energies every day. No guarantee though.

      This is not to say I’m happy with what has happened. I feel hurt for myself and friends cast overboard. I feel betrayed for all the work I’ve done at a poor wage or for nothing seems to have gone unnoticed. I’ve been through this before though and know this is a fragile time when anger and bitterness can do considerable damage to myself and those close to me with no useful resolution. I’m hoping that writing about it helps myself and others. Coincidentally some of my fall-back calmness comes from a course in Hope Studies that I helped pilot online a few years ago and our new director was one of the creators of that course. Things do pay off.

      Growing Old course sounds interesting. We moved to this sometimes awful place where we live to be around young people and a sense that the world goes on and it’s been one disaster after another. Not unexpectedly this has the effect of turning complaining into a kind of science with levels and combinations of miseries that can be collected like badges, especially if you keep them to yourself. My guess is retirement doesn’t suit a lot of people and this restless population could be a huge resource.

      My observation on technology pushing our students away is something we might be doing some research on. Keeping our students from quitting has driven the addition of all sorts of media to our classes. Maybe the content is too plain or boring to people exposed to a high definition world so we pretty it up. This extra media is creating bandwidth heavy courses that don’t distributed well to outlying communities. So what if these students are frustrated with slow downloads and distracted by content that constantly fails them? Or maybe the adding of media has distracted our attention from important teaching principals?

      Could be we have fallen for technology or be substituting borrowed principals of visual persuasion from advertising that catch attention and then melt away? How much of our knowledge on how media works transfers to learning? Are we even engaging the correct part of the brain?

  • jennymackness  On April 4, 2013 at 12:40 AM

    Hi Scott – so glad you found the Balogun article useful. I find myself returning to it time and again over the years. Like you I have experienced the failure of an institution, so I can relate at least in part to what you and your colleagues are going through.

    The idea that technology can push some students away is a very interesting one and as you say would be a very well worthwhile research topic. I mentioned before that for your students mobile learning might be worth thinking about. I expect you are aware of Inge de Waard’s mobiMOOC – http://mobimooc.wikispaces.com/a+MobiMOOC+hello!

    Inge and her team have written a number of research papers on their experience, and the JISC (here in the UK) have also funded a lot of projects on mobile technologies – http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/topics/mobilelearning.aspx

    If this is of any interest let me know and I’ll see if I can hunt out some useful articles – or maybe someone else in this group knows of some.

    • scottx5  On April 4, 2013 at 8:01 AM

      Hi Jenny, Using the Balogun article to make sense of what’s going on is a big help. In the mess we are currently in there needs to be a door from emotion back to rationality so we can all function again.

      I’ll check out Inge’s work. We are located less than an hour away from the Athabasca home “campus” and frequently lose or best employees to their Edmonton main site:-) So we know the quality we can expect. Will look into the mobile delivery of our courses, could be a way to sidestep the crazy actions of government and send educational content out directly.

      More later.

  • TE  On April 11, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    hi , i am write for you! (lucidatranslucida) bye

    • scottx5  On April 13, 2013 at 6:34 PM

      Looking forward to hearing from you. I still believe that learning involves the whole person and not isolated parts that listen while the rest is passive. Just by sitting at our desks we may be blocking that portion of our body most suited to administrative insights:-) Or our most expressive selves.

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