Thursday, June 01, 2006
Computers and Writing Conference 2006
I was very impressed with the organization of the conference but also with the people who are involved in this field.
The organization of the conference was much more than just collegiate. It seemed to me like a friend who prepared for visitors and made sure they were taken care of in many different ways. This was the case from the conference chair and assistant but even down to the graduate students and technical support and administrative staff. All around they created an atmosphere that was very welcoming and inclusive. Certainly this experience was very different from others that I have had.
Long time atendees were also very welcoming and supportive of new folk like me. It is easy to feel ostracized and most individuals went out of their way to include me in their own conversations. One person described the C & W conference as his summer camp. I saw that type of comraderie throughout the conference. There was not one session which I attended in which negative or abrasive criticism was given. People were willing to listen to presenter's ideas, disagree at times, but most gave either positive comments or constructive criticism.
It was an excellent introduction into the field.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
First, I feel like I am getting ready for a long road trip. I feel excited and refreshed, ready to get on the road. This class has shown me that I am more than ready for the trip. I'm not sure exactly how long it will take me, but I have my map in front of me and the path marked clearly for at least the first leg of the trip. I hope to have the rest of it mapped out pretty soon.
Several different events of the past two years lead me to this decision (at least that I can track). Most recently was my trip to the HACU conference which seemed to put the decision right in my face. I couldn't ignore it. I had to decide one way or another. I either keep going in the same direction and find myself in a dead-end years from now, or give myself some options.
Money, distance and prestige have always been a big issue. Don't want to give up the money I'm making, don't want to leave my family or take them away from what they know and love and don't want to settle for anything just because there is nothing else. So I didn't want to give up my job, didn't want to move and didn't want to get an EdD. Not that there is anything wrong with an EdD. Most people who have advanced positions have an EdD but I am an ivy league snob. They taught me well.
From the time of the Mellon Fellowship, I know that people have expected me to continue on to the PhD and getting an EdD was like disappointing them. Although I lost the Mellon money because I didn't pursue this earlier, I still feel I made the right choice. Part of me, in undergrad and graduate school, got bored of the theory and esoteric nature of discussing and analyzing literature. I can do it for pleasure and for fun, but I certainly do not want to do it because I have to or because it is part of my job. Toward the end of each of those degrees, I questioned its relevance. The TCR degree has built-in flexibility so that students can choose their own path. Someone can choose to go heavy theoretical or practical or get a nice mix of the two. The flexibility not only in regards to distance but in regards to choice is very important to me.
One of the most importance choices was not to sacrifice my family for the degree. To me that was always the biggest barrier. I have heard many people say the divorce rate for phd students is very high. The distance would have certainly contributed to that stress.
I did learn, even with taking one class, that I have to be very diligent in not forgetting about my family. I know that I will concentrate on academics and will instinctively put that first above all else. I have caught myself doing that several times. And even if it means going to bed an hour later or skipping lunch the next day to catch up on work, I need to be careful not to ignore my family. It is easier for the children to come and not care that I am reading a book or taking notes; they demand the attention. It is much harder for my husband. He understands how important this is to me and will not demand, at least not directly. I have to be be cognizant of them. Losing one for the other is not a very good trade-off.
Effect on Job
That is the one word I can use to describe the effect of taking the graduate class on my job.
I learned many things by taking the class which are directly relevant to my job, not only as a teacher but also as an administrator.
During the first few weeks of the class, I was overwhelmed with the number of new technology skills which I had to learn. I had to learn how to create a blog (not that difficult until I knew what all the tabs were for) and streaming video. It was certainly fun and I wouldn't have taken the time to learn it otherwise. Each time that I learned something new for class, I immediately started thinking about how it would benefit my teaching, how I could apply that in my classes.
The two projects which I worked on for class will also benefit the campus. I'm not sure that either of them will ever get funded but I have people already excited about implementing certain components of each project on a small scale. I will attempt to get at least one of them submitted (at least so that we can get the comments back from FIPSE) and we, more than likely will not get one accepted right away, but then we can work on it and resubmit it.
Reflection on 5377
I took 5377--Grantwriting to get a feel for the program and for the faculty involved in teaching the classes. I have been involved in other courses (although they were training courses and not academic) where there was almost no communication with the instructor and very little communication with the students. It felt very lonely. I have to say that I am very impressed with TTU.
I have had contact with two professors thus far, Dr. Rich Rice and Dr. Locke Carter. I've learned alot from Dr. Rice, not only class content, but also strategies for online content delivery. From Dr. Carter, I have gotten a sense of the type of advising that will be offered to guide me through the program.
Dr. Rice challenged us to use technology not only to learn the material but to communicate. I have had to learn how to use MOO, Camtasia, MovieMaker, advanced features of powerpoint and instant messaging in order to fulfill the course requirements. What I like best is that these are all skills which I will be able to put to use for my own teaching. Dr. Rice forced the students to go out and learn how to best deliver the content of our assignments and he modeled the strategies in delivering the content of the class himself. He used videos for instruction which I liked for several reasons. The videos provided the consistency for contact between the instructor and the student. I'm not sure what his goals for the videos were exactly, but I can say that the videos allowed me to feel that connection with the instructor through the video-lecture/presentation. He used the videos to present information just like he would have during a f2f class. He integrated powerpoint slides to focus on the key ideas of his lecture which usually pointed back to the information provided in the textbook. He used the students' comments, blog, video and audio, to create a sense of discussion in the class. I have to admit that the weeks when no video was offered the feeling of consistency began to suffer. With the videos, I was able to prepare for the next class meeting, get an idea of what other students were doing, and keep the class in the foreground of my mind. With so many things going on, it was good to have something that I could go to at any time of the day to refocus on the class.
The website for the class was very important to me. It is very thorough, centralizes all the course information, and leads in many different directions. Almost every class day entry has several links to more information. Sometimes it was fairly obvious that the information was a link and at other times it was not. I found that I had to read with the mouse following the words on the screen so that I would not lose a link. Very few links were dead-ends and most lead to invaluable information.
The blog was also a new experience but very rewarding. I liked the blog prompts which we were given each week, especially those which asked us to reflect on our process. It seemed to me that the ones which were most difficult for me were those which were questions from the book. Those seemed to ask for very specific responses and did not give the opportunity for further reflection. I was glad to see Lennie and Wayne use the blog more freely and write about other things which were not in a prompt. I was not sure exactly how acceptable this was so I refrained from doing that. I am struggling right now trying to figure out a way that I can use the blog method of discussion in my class but design it for more interaction.
I think that I gained alot by writing the blog responses but I also would have liked to interact with my classmates more. That is one aspect of the course which I wanted more of. I was able to interact with some of my classmates through IM. I think I had a couple of IM sessions with Pete, Wayne and Sultan. I had one with Lennie. But that was all. Even though some of the blog prompts asked us to look at what our classmates were doing (2 I think), I am wondering how else interaction can be generated without necessarily overburdening everyone.
I like the ideas of the teams but they were not used until late in the class when the workshopping began. Even with the workshopping, we were working in isolation and not really having conversation which is what is required with interaction. Going back and forth once is really not enough, I think, to create that sense of communication. But the question is, how can that be accomplished....