For the second time in, just about, two years I find myself on the hunt for a job. My prior job lasted a lifetime; my current a single year. That's not to say I've only ever had 2 jobs. Quite to the contrary. I've waited tables, worked for the Census Bureau, worked my fingers to the bone making vacuum and steam cleaners while assistant managing a 7/11, made donuts, ran around like a crazy person in a bowling alley, managed a business and worked as an AA in a local government office. I just never had a career until my previous position. Like my others, it didn't begin that way, but it certainly ended so. I spent my life hoping one day I would have a career I just couldn't wait to get out of bed for, and without knowing it, mine fell right into my lap. I "fell" into private education. Never, in a million years, would I have ever believed one day I would be a Teacher.
To enhance my new found love and joy, I did what I thought was the "right thing". Because I didn't do it right out of high school, I went back to school to finish my education. Before I knew it, I had earned my bachelor's and my master's. But something, inside, was still missing. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, until one day I came across the perfect Ph.D. - online. I had spent my entire career teaching students, and adults, how to incorporate the use of technology in the classroom, the importance of copyright, et.al., online security, and digital citizenship. Finding this particular Ph.D. was like a God send, so I made the decision to finish my education.
Ok, so what's the problem?
Funny how one simple conversation can sometimes make us feel the decisions we make are coming back to "bite us in the butt", and the bank account. In the last few months I have been on my fair share of interviews, but there is one that has stuck with me. According to one interviewer, I’ve managed to educate myself right out of a job, especially one outside of private education. The reason. No one wants to hire anyone that is “pompous and pretentious” and that's what a Ph.D. says to those outside private education (paraphrasing).
Second problem? Secondary education shy's away for fear they can't afford a doctorate holder, or they are only interested in "traditional" doctorate degrees. Higher Ed demands educators with a doctorate but they, too, look primarily for traditionalists; Professors who teach math, psychology, English, science, etc.
Finally, adult education doesn't care one way or the other. They just want teachers with adult education experience and, no, other educators do not count.
I find myself, now, stuck at a crossroads. I’m almost 2/3 of the way through my doctorate in psychology (of integrating technology, learning & psychology) and I’m wondering, do I stop and begin paying back the government the thousands upon thousands of dollars I owe them, or do I continue my dream and begin working on the dissertation I am so passionate about, at the risk of becoming "pompous and pretentious"?
It makes me wonder, when does one stop following their dream just to meet the status quo?
So here it is, 11:51 at night, on a Friday and I'm lying in bed with my trusty computer and my faithful dog, or is it my faithful computer and my trusty dog? No matter, really, because we are all three here. My husband has abandoned us for the solitude of the living room and ESPN (as he prepares for the Super Bowl in two days). "No time like the present" I suppose. As I lie here, typing my first ever blog and pondering the point of it all, I'm wrapped up in listening to the peaceful sounds of my canine companion snoring softly, stretched out across my feet. As he snores away, my mind begins to wander a bit and images of my husband pop into my head; images of him lying next to me snoring, only his aren't quite so soft and peaceful. I describe his snoring, much like my mother described my father's When he gets started his snoring "could wake the dead".
It's funny how the mind works sometimes. No sooner did I hear my mother's words echo in my head, I then heard my Grandmother, "Grandpa snores to beat the band", she would always say. I'm not sure what that meant, but it always sounded funny and we'd all get a good laugh out of it.
Growing up, our family was never at a loss to describe certain things and events in our lives. Thinking back on those phrases now, we certainly were a colorful lot. I think there aren't many people out there who haven't heard the old "What were you, born in a barn?" which of course means nothing more than "Shut the front door", but how about "I am not air conditioning the entire State of Texas", which also means "Shut the front door". How about these standards: "Jiminy Christmas" or "For Pete's Sake". In today's lingo those both would mean "Are you kidding me?" Admittedly, I'm still trying to figure out who Pete is, or why anyone would reference the cricket from Pinocchio, but "to each his own".
As I got older I always wanted to stay out "Til the cows came home", but when you don't have cows then how the heck are you supposed to know when you are supposed to go home? Alas, no cows meant parental curfew. If I broke parental curfew then I was in trouble "until Hell wouldn't have it" and the only way I could be obvsolved of my punishment was if "Hell froze over". You will never know how happy I was the day I found out that Hell was in Michigan and the first time I heard they had snow, I was right there to tell my parents I was no longer in trouble because Hell had actually frozen over. That's about the time I learned the phrase "Over my dead body".
So "God willing, and the creek don't rise", I just about made it through my first blogging experience. I have been writing for a little more than an hour, so now it is Saturday morning, and, based on my Grandfather's wise words of wisdom, it will remain "Saturday, all day, unless it rains". Although my precious pup is still sound asleep at my feet, I am calling it a night, because I am "feeling like I've been ridden hard and put away wet". So "Here's looking at you kid" and "I'll catch you on the flip side".
For those who don’t know, I am in graduate school. It has taken me a long time to get here, but in a few short weeks (providing I don’t blow my exit interview) I will have earned my Master’s in Education. For the past 5 semesters I have been learning all about how to effectively use technology in the classroom. Not just physical technology, but “mental” technology as well. Anyone can introduce the use of computers, or projectors, or Smartboards, but it’s HOW you use them that counts, not just that you have them to use.
This semester we are studying Web 2.0, which is just a fancy schmancy way to use the web to communicate and collaborate with others. Web 2.0 has made using the Internet much more interactive and some educators have found ways to adopt the use of Web 2.0 to break down the 4 walls of their classroom and bring the world closer to their students and their students closer to the world.
Our assignment, this semester, was to start a blog. I have never been a fan of blogging because blogging has always felt like a me, me, me, kind of proposition but, since this is our assignment, I am taking it on with as much fervor as I possibly can. Am I going to write a bunch of useless information about myself? Nope, that’s just not my style. Anyone who wants to know anything about me only has to ask, but to openly blurt stuff out about myself, no can do. But what I can do is throw a bit of myself into the assignments we are given, and hopefully we’ll all learn something along the way… And so, here goes.
This week, we were asked to write blog about blogs. I don’t know who, out there, has ever tried to write a blog, but a blog about blogs? I can tell you for the better part of the last few days I have been completely blog blocked. After spending the day watching one Lifetime movie after another, it finally hit me. I was not going to solve my blocked blog issue watching sappy movies. It was time to put down the remote and do a little research. So like Pooh, I went to my thoughtful spot (my bed under my heated blanket) and did a Google search to find out why it was that people wrote blogs in the first place.
According to Brian Gardner, there are 7 reasons why people blog:
1. To Teach – according to Mr. Gardner, if you happen to be an expert in a specific subject matter then the best way to let people know how talented you are is to write a blog about what you know.
2. To Direct Traffic to Your Website – If you have a website that you want people to visit, perhaps one of the best ways to get people to visit your website would be to blog about it.
3. To Help Others – Blogs can be used as Internet support groups.
4. To Change the World – Sometimes blogs are started in order to raise awareness about specific issues are causes in our country and around the world.
5. To Stay Connected – Blogs can be used as digital newsletters; a place where family and friends can get together and share information about what is happening in their lives, post pictures, personal news, accomplishments, etc.
6. To Make Money – Some people start blogging to make a little extra cash, although it takes a lot of hard work and effort to make money blogging.
7. To Have Fun – This is the most interesting one, I think. People start blogging just for the sake of blogging. They have a passionate interest in certain subject matters and they want to be able to share that passion with the rest of the world. They have fun blogging about a topic and they are looking for ways to stay connected.
8. Because it is a Grad Assignment – I feel the need to add just one more to Mr. Gardner’s list and that is people blog because it is part of an assignment they received from their Grad Professor.
Clearly, there are a lot of reasons why people blog but I think there needs to be one more reason added to the list.
9. People blog because they want to know that they are being seen by other people and they are anxious to get a comment so they can feel some sort of validation. They want to know that there are people out there, like them, feeling what they are feeling. But mostly, they just want people to know they are…
So for all you bloggers out there, I say more power to you. Keep teaching, and supporting, and trying to save the world. If you're trying to make money, you might want to get a day job (or 2) but I wish you all the luck with that endeavor. Mostly, know that we see you (and now hopefully you see me too), and we validate what you stand for.
Wanna take a guess what this week's blog is supposed to be about? Go ahead, give it a second, I'll wait.
Yep, you got it. It's WIKI's. So what is a wiki you may ask? Or you may not, but since it's an assignment, I'll explain anyway.
wi·ki (/ˈwikē/) Noun
A Web site developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content.
There is the quick definition of what a wiki is. Are you impressed yet? No? Well let me see if I can't change that for you.
Obviously we all know the most popular wiki in the world is wikipedia. By a show of hands, how many of you out there turn to wikipedia first when you want to know what something is? Come on, don't be shy. We know we all do it. Why? Because it's easy. Years ago, if we wanted to know something we'd trudge to the basement or wherever our Encyclopedia Britannica's were stashed, and look it up that way. Now we have wikipedia. Sure there are lots of other sources on the Internet, but wikipedia seems to be the most concise source available. That begs the questions, especially as educators (or parents, or students), is it accurate? Who knows. It's as accurate as the community who is writing it. Was everything we ever read in the Encyclopedia Britannica accurate? Again, who knows. Most people assumed (just like they do with wikipedia) that it wouldn't be in print if it weren't accurate but just because something has taken written form does not always mean it's so. If that were the case then, according to the Enquirer, half of the world's population would either be, or would have been abducted by, aliens.
Does that mean that wikis like wikipedia are BAD and we should never use them as sources of information; that they are all automatically wrong? No, but as educators, parents and/or students we need to be vigilant and remember not to take everything we read at face value. Today, especially, there are so many sources of information available and we should take advantage of all of them.
So, if you and a bunch of your friends have something you want to contribute and have information you want to share, get out there and create yourself a wiki. They are much easier to work with that creating a full blown-out web site, plus there are enough free wiki sites available that it takes nothing to get one started. Just remember, the information you provide is only as good as the knowledge you know, but don't feel badly if someone comes along and disputes it. As fast as the world changes, the knowledge you have today may only be as good as yesterday's news.
One final thought. Do you know where the term wiki comes from? It was coined by its creator, Ward Cunningham. Cunningham developed the first wiki software in 1995 and named it the WikiWikiWeb because of a shuttle he took at the Honolulu International Airport. The shuttle was called the Wiki shuttle. Wiki was a reduplication of the word Wiki Wiki which, in Hawaiian, means fast. Because the idea behind the WikiWikiWeb was to make pages quickly editable by its users, Ward initially thought about calling it the QuickWeb, but changed his mind and the WikiWikiWeb was born. Thanks Wikipedia for starting me on my journey to find this information, and thanks Ward Cunningham and your Wiki Page for confirming (and for giving us such a great tool).
So in honor of Ward Cunningham and Hawaii, I'm going to go grab me a wiki wiki pina colada and spend the rest of my weekend working on my Wiki. Anyone want to join me?
About an hour ago, I set out to write this GREAT blog about podcasting, so I grabbed my trusty dog (although he didn't seem to be terribly happy with that), hunkered down under my heated blanket, came up with a fairly catchy title, and for about 45 minutes sat and stared at the computer screen. The entire time I sat here, I just kept thinking "What the heck am I going to write about podcasting that those who are interested don't already know, or those who aren't interested would even care about"?
As usual, I did my research - started out with Wikipedia because, as I've already established, that's pretty much where we all start - and found out the reason podcasts are called podcasts was because of the iPod (go figure). I also learned that the very first time the phrase "podcasting" was used was in The Guardian newspaper back in 2004. Now, I could spend the next 15 minutes, or so, writing about the podcasts' history, but by that time I would not only have bored myself to sleep but also anyone who stumbled across my blog. Not exactly what I was going for. My intention was not to bore but to get you excited and passionate about the prospect of podcasting; passionate enough that if you are an educator and you are not using podcasting in your classroom, after reading this you would not only seriously think about podcasting but maybe even decide to run out and give it a try in your classroom.
The problem is, though, how do I make someone passionate about something they feel they have no use for, or they feel may be too complicated to use? To me, that's the great thing about being a teacher. Teachers are always willing to try something new (right?!?), especially if it means that it is going to get their students excited, and podcasting could very well be that one thing that tips the scales in the right direction. It could be the one thing that takes a mediocre project and turns it into something spectacular. For instance, let's say, you are a high school student and you are being asked to do a report on the Civil War. It's a group project and you've been told under no circumstances are you allowed to turn in, yet another, PowerPoint presentation. What do you do? Easy. You get your group together, brainstorm a bit, figure out how you want your project to come across (interview, re enactment, etc.), write a script, practice a few times, grab a laptop with a built in microphone (or find a couple you can plug in), download a free recording/editing program (such as audacity), record your project, edit it, add a few sound effects for ambience and a little background music (from the public domain, of course), play it back to make sure you have it exactly as you want it and wham, bam, boom, you have yourself one heck of a history project. At the end of the project, you have a bunch of happy teeanagers who are proud of the job they've done and a teacher who isn't being given the same old, same old.
If that doesn't excite you, then how about this. You teach at a middle school,where you have students who are interested in broadcasting. You have the means to make morning announcements, but no budget to set up a "radio station". What's the next best thing? Podcasting. Take that same group of students, have them write up their script, record the announcements, add a little "evening news" type music and sound effects and you have yourself a great way to deliver the announcements in the morning to the entire school. Again, what do you have? A bunch of students who are proud of their achievements, a different medium to present their "project", a tool that is available to pretty much everyone, and a way to get their message across without being boring.
As an educator, it is our job to teach, but it is also our job to keep things fresh for our students and make them want to learn. Anyone can stand in a classroom and lecture for 45 to 70 minutes, but adding the element of "fun" to a project is only going to bring out the passion in your students and ignite the passion in you as an educator. Plus, you never know, you may very well have the next Walter Cronkite or Barbara Walters in your midst, and without giving podcasting a try you may never know. You could be that one educator standing between that student and the chance of a lifetime. How would you like to live with that guilt for all eternity? I know I wouldn't. So if you haven't, give podcasting a try. You, and your students, will be glad you did!
I would like to say it is not much like me to be opinionated about things in my life, but anyone who knows me knows that would be one the largest, dare I say it, fibs ever. I am not only opinionated, I rarely keep those opinions to myself - but I really do not try to push them off on others, unless there is something that I just can't contain and keep inside. Well, everyone, this is just one of those times.
To say I am a huge fan of Apple and the products they make would not exactly describe me at all. I'm more just a connoisseur of their products. Yes, I own an iPod (mini, nano and touch). When I purchased my new car a few months back, I also bought an iPhone because I was enamored with the OnStar app that would start your car from anywhere. I love my iPhone, but am a bit disappointed because the ONE car I purchased does not have that feature through OnStar, so all I can do is lock and unlock my doors and, seriously, where is the fun in that? Finally, for my classes at Mason I bought myself an iPad because I thought it would be so much easier to carry around, download my books to and take notes on - none of which I've really been able to do because my books are not available via iBooks, I suck at typing on the screen, and I really need a computer to do most of the work I do for class. I'm not saying I don't like their products, but to say I am a fan? Eh, not so much.
To me, being fan of something means you sort of live, eat and breath whatever you happen to be a fan of - for instance, Trace Adkins. Now, in my case, I would consider myself not just a fan, but a HUGE fan. So much so a stalking order would probably have to be put in place if I lived anywhere near where he lived. Seriously, when it comes to Trace Adkins, I am definitely coo coo for cocoa puffs. On the grand scheme of things, I would not put Apple on the same plain as Trace - barely even on the same planet; HOWEVER, I must tell you, after what happened to me the other night, my stock value in Apple has gone from simply Ho Hum to, "Ya know, I think they really got something there".
Last Thursday, class ran a little late, so my dutiful husband called to see if I was okay. Not realizing, after I answered his call, I neglected to put my iPhone back into my purse. When class was over, I said my goodbye's and off I went. It wasn't until after I'd gotten home that I realized my phone was not with me. I will tell you, I'm not one of those people who is so addicted to their phone that my heart began to race and I thought I was going to pass out because I didn't have it. Instead, after making sure it wasn't in my car or jacket pocket, I called my professor to see if she had left campus and when she said she had, asked if she wouldn't mind looking for it when she returned the next day and if she found it just keep it until we saw each other again. I also sent an email. Not terribly alarming, I know, but it did occur to me that I might have to replace it and, since it was not my turn for an upgrade, I wasn't looking forward to spending the $400 to get a new one.
Suddenly, I had an epiphany. I have a TON of apps on my iPad - mostly games that I don't play - but one day when I was downloading apps I came across one that helped locate your iPhone if it was ever misplaced. To me, misplaced does not mean lost - it just means I set it in the house somewhere and couldn't remember where I left it. Since I have this problem A LOT, I decided that this was probably a good app to have, so I downloaded it and set it up. I've had the app for about 6 months and for the first couple weeks, had a lot of fun playing with it. I would set my phone down and then walk through the house trying to trace it. Once or twice I forgot it and left it at home and, while at work, would do a search for it and sure enough, it would show up safe and sound at my home address. So this was my epiphany. I ran upstairs, grabbed my iPad, opened my app and marked the phone as lost. Sure enough, it showed up as still being on the campus at George Mason (although it didn't give an exact location - maybe Apple can work on that). Feeling better about it, I password protected it (because it normally isn't), set a phone number on it to call in case it was found and off to bed I went.
In the morning, I was working from home so I began my routine as normal. Got up, showered, dressed, grabbed a cup of coffee and went into the livingroom to begin doing a lot of, mind numbing, data entry. When I noticed my iPad sitting on the table I thought, what the heck, let me see if my phone is in the same place as it was the night before. I opened the app, and much to my chagrin, the phone had moved. The app even showed the trajectory in which the phone had gone from one place to another. Again, no buildings, but I knew it was still somewhere on campus. Instinctively I walked back into my kitchen and sure enough, the message light on my home phone was flashing. I checked the message and lo and behold, at 2:22 a.m. my phone had been found and was sitting in the office of the campus police. "Wow", I thought, "how cool is that?" I called campus police, described the phone, verified it was mine and in less than an hour had my phone back.
So what did I learn from all of this? First - don't ever answer the phone when your husband is calling during class. Second - if you have an iPhone and another piece of Apple equipment, download and install the "locate my iPhone" app. Third - Apple really isn't a bad company after all and some of the apps they make can be useful and helpful. I do look forward to dumping some of my games and really looking into other useful Apple apps - but that will be after I finish my Master's class. For now, I'm happy to have my phone back, and as a special gift I bought it a new cover today. It's completely blinged out in pick and white rhinestones and has a giant rhinestone peacock on it. I mean, if I'm going to have my phone back, it's going to look good too!
So thanks Apple, for making what could have been a really bad situation turn out great. Believe me, I will be sharing this experience with my students and making sure they have, if they haven't already, downloaded this app so they have it because, as we know, teenagers NEVER know where they leave their phones, and if this can get even one back it's worth the download!
Yesterday was the first "big" snowstorm in the Northern Virginia area since about 2 to 3 years ago. As a snow lover, to say I was excited about the anticipation of a big snow was an understatement. Schools were closed; even the Federal Government had shut down for the day. Sadly, we didn't get nearly as much snow as I was hoping, but it was beautiful and it became a short day of work for my husband, which is always a treat.
To allay your fears, this entry is really not about the weather, although without the promised snowstorm this entry could not be written. What this entry is about is the absolute and unequivocal thrill that comes with all of the instant technology that is at our fingertips today. I'm sure there those out there who still don't understand why instant technology is so important, and why it has become a seamless part of today's youth, but yesterday was a prime example of how instant technology has woven itself directly into the fiber of our lives.
As you may have noticed the title of my blog entry is the thrill of instant technology, or the hunt for Jim Cantore. For those of you who may not be weather channel buffs, you many not know that Jim Cantore is "the guy" to watch when bad weather comes to town. If there is a hurricane approaching any coastline, Jim Cantore is there. If there is severe weather in the plains states, Jim Cantore is there. Well, yesterday, Jim Cantore was here, in anticipation of the DC snowstorm that really wasn't. It's probably odd to think, since he isn't a rock star, or movie star, but Jim Cantore does have a fan base and, although I cannot or will not mention names, many women in my family are huge "fans". When my husband's work day was cut short, and he found out that Mr. Cantore was in DC, he decided to do what any good husband (who also happens to be a professional photographer) would do. He decided to take a trip into DC to hunt for the elusive weatherman. It took some doing, with a little help from me sitting at home watching live weather reports and talking to each other on our cell phones, my husband eventually found the "treasure" he was looking for.
Shortly after locating Mr. Cantore, I received a final phone call. I immediately flipped the station back over to the Weather Channel, just in time to see my husband standing several feet behind Mr. Cantore. My husbands back was to camera, and he was looking at the street (so as not to appear too conspicuous), all the while he was talking with me on the phone. So what was the next thing I did? Grabbed the remote and hit the record button on the DVR, so I could memorialize my husbands television appearance. Granted, I did it primarily as a joke, and to show our 20 year old. After all, who would really believe he hunted down and found Jim Cantore?
Enter, instant technology. As soon as my 20 year old saw her father on TV, standing behind Jim Cantore, she immediately posted, from her smartphone, about her father's whereabouts to all of her friends on Facebook. By the time her father had gotten home, there were several comments posted (most of which were non-believing). So what did I do? I grabbed my smartphone, turned on the DVR, cued up the video (as proof), recorded it with my smartphone and then uploaded it to YouTube. Then I grabbed my laptop, went onto Facebook and commented on my daughters post, providing the necessary proof that he had, in fact, scoped out and found Jim Cantore.
My husband then grabbed his iPad, hopped on his Facebook account and shared the video with people he was friends with, that I wasn't. Then he grabbed his laptop, downloaded the pictures from his camera, did some editing and uploaded them to Facebook. In a span of, about an hour, because of instant technology, his day's "hard work" had been seen by at least a couple thousand people; more if any of our family and friends shared his video and/or pictures.
And? You might be wondering. What does this really have to do with anything, other than bragging about the fact that my husband was able to track down and take pictures of Jim Cantore? The "And" in all this is, it's not just our students who have learned to move "at the speed of light". Kind of like Jim Cantore, instant technology is everywhere and if we aren't embracing it, as educators, then shame on us. If we aren't allowing our students to use it in classrooms or teaching our students how to use it properly and effectively then we are failing them and we are failing ourselves.
Think back about 15 years and consider this same encounter. Yes, we would have known that Jim Cantore was in town, but what would have been the odds my husband would have found him as quickly as he did? Without having cellphones, he could have wandered the streets of DC for hours. If, by some miracle, he did find Mr. Cantore he could have snapped his photos but then he would have had to develop them and then share them as hard copies via regular snail mail. What we were able to do in the span of an hour would have taken a couple weeks. Sure, those unmentionable fans I spoke of earlier would still have been happy to get their pictures, but they would have had to have waited and then the only way they could have shared them would have been to carry them around in their purses and pull them out to show to others. They also wouldn't have been able to "see him" on the streets of DC unless they had been watching the broadcast at that very moment in time. Because of instant technology, they didn't have to wait, they received their pictures almost immediately, and they were able to share my husbands experience almost right along with him.
So when you are thinking about lesson plans and ways to use technology in your classroom, keep the above example in mind. Today's students are naturally adept at using instant technology. As educators, it is up to us to make sure we keep abreast of the changes in technology so we can be more that just adequate in our classrooms. We need to find ways to stay ahead of our students in order to challenge them, to make learning fun and to maintain and hold their interests. We need to be their "Jim Cantore", so they spend time seeking us out. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather be the teacher whose students think I'm a rock star than a has been.