Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Week 8: Finale

This will be my final blog of the summer schedule. This is not intended to be a complete reflection of the entire semester. That reflection will appear on my ePortfolio site under NETS Teaching Standards.

I want to say as an introduction that I am emotionally drained after finishing my projects for this class and also dealing with student advisors over which classes to take in the Fall. I bring this up as supporting evidence of why I had to switch all of my writings that said I would graduate in December of '11. (Seriously, I have been telling potential employers for six months that I would have my degree in December.) Instead I will graduate in May '12; and I am not happy about it at all. Unless I am supposed to be some kind of mind reader -- or have access to a year's worth of class schedules at hand -- this was not due to a mistake on my part. I messaged my advisor many times between October '10 and May '11 about my schedule. At no point did the advisor warn me of what was to come. The bottom line is the classes I need this fall are all offered, but they're all offered in the final eight weeks; and I can't take that many classes during one eight-week period. What's more, none of the classes I need to graduate are offered during the first eight weeks of the Spring semester either. I could graduate in December if I took a class I had no interest in, merely to get the three semester hours; but I wouldn't want to do that, especially at the graduate level. So I am looking to May as my graduation.

Back to the recent tasks at hand. The NETS project was good. It gave me a great way to gauge the entire semester. I was surprised how many tools and resources we had covered. Then when I thought again, of all the nights during the first four or five weeks when I literally was bent over with my head in my hands not knowing what to do next. As I believed then, it all worked out. But I still feel like I missed something somewhere.

This blog was a big part of the process, and I have enjoyed writing it. The length and frequency of a web log fits my writing and thinking style very well. My Delicious bookmarks have been turned in; and I am a little surprised -- as I looked at my peers pages -- that I actually finished with quite a few bookmarks. Delicious is a great tool that I plan on using for a long time. Not only is it comprehensive, the fact that there is a 'Tag It' icon in my bookmarks bar makes it incredibly easy to add at a moment's notice.

Even as I put the final touches on my final NETS reflection, I know that I'm a long way from finished. I'll still be working on my ePortfolio site, which is my web page that I refer potential employers to. I still have four classes to go before I graduate; and I am assuming most if not all will be as difficult as this one has been. It's not that we got a huge amount of work for this class, it's the way it was given to us that threw me off. I just couldn't keep my brain around it.

I do want to say how much I have enjoyed getting to know Dr. Bass and all of my classmates. The only problem is I will competing with these classmates for job openings over the next few years.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Week 7

As I turn in what I feel is my completed WebQuest, I still think I could tweak it more if I wanted to. Every time I go back to it, I see something else that could be better; or I see something somewhere else, such as an other WebQuest or blog, that reminds me of my WebQuest and makes me think I’d like to see that element on my web page. Such is the life of a teacher, right? Lesson plans are never perfect. They are tweaked, revised and update constantly. That’s what this WebQuest is: it’s a lesson plan, spelled out for students to lead themselves, in a Web 2.0 format.

It is special because students can guide themselves through the process, with only minimal help from the teacher. It’s special too because it can be shared with peers; and experienced educators can give their feedback as to how it can be improved.

My Delicious account is finished, I believe. This has been a slow-paced, little here, little there exercise that has proven to be most profitable. I spent years collecting various bookmarks on my browser. In the last seven weeks I have amassed an amazing list of useful links that I can access from any computer, anywhere.

I still have some work to go on my e-Portfolio. In that project, I have to choose and master five web tools and reflect upon their use in the classroom. However, the five artifacts I chose originally didn’t make it to the final cut. I changed three of them. I did this because I wanted each tool to be a bit more challenging and peer-based: Because that seems to be the pattern of the NETS standards themselves. Each process is difficult to finish, but exploring and experimenting with all of these web tools has been fun. However, I will say that the more of these web tools I sign up for, the more spam email I get on my Gmail account every day. It all goes to the spam folder, but the sheer amount is scary – 10 or 12 spam emails every day in my junk folder. I would like to be able to figure out one day which sites are selling my emails and which ones are not. Next week, or actually a half-week, my final summer blog. I will have a final reflection on my eight-week course.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week 6: Frustration and Happenstance

For weeks, I have been struggling to gain control over the vast amounts of technology that have been thrown at us. But you know what? There is one thing I cannot control; and one thing that deserves mentioning as we try to make our classrooms completely digitized (oh yes they are!):

Sometimes the stuff just doesn’t work right.

When you are posting a link to someone else’s web page, there is always a possibility that when the person you gave the link to goes there, the page won’t be there anymore. So one must be careful about handing out links. Some web pages will never go away (Library of Congress, for example), but even those pages may change. Some web sites have auto-redirects, some do not.

Or, there is a possibility that entire web sites can disappear. This is especially true of .com sites that are privately owned and come and go quickly. Either way, one has to remember that technology is not perfect. When you rely on it the most, it may fail you.

The same can be said for software programs. Just this past week I was given an assignment that called for me to edit a .rtf file and return it to my editing peer so they could read my comments about their WebQuest. Possibly because I do not have MS Word on my computer, I could not get the file to format correctly. I would fill it out and everything would appear to be in place, but when I saved it and emailed it the person could not open it or if she did it was missing all of my added information. I tried doing it again…then I tried just highlighting my scores and adding notes at the end. It still didn’t work. The last column was missing. I ended up sending her an email with my comments in the text body. Email: There’s a technology that for the most part can be depended on.

Technology is very cool. I personally love working with it. But the more one relies on technology to deliver the needed content, the more control one gives over to pure chance. And it will fail, now and then. It’s cool to use technology to show me how technology works. But sometimes by doing so you’re also showing me how it doesn’t work. Maybe that was the plan all along.