About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The end of the school year in New York State

I know that I have a number of readers of this blog from New York state. However, many are from outside of the state and the country. I am always interested in the blogs that I read, about learning what their end of school year is like. So I decided to write a "cultural" piece about how students (at all levels of education) end their school year in our state. Interestingly, it has not changed much since I was a child (in the dark ages of the '70's and my mother assures me it was much the same when she was a kid in the '40's).

Our school year starts late (first week of September, just after labor day or the first Monday of Sept.) and ends late (third week in June). In addition to finals, high school students take the regents exams, which goes back as far as my mother's time. Regents exams are curriculum based topical standardized exams (i.e. algebra, geometry, living environment, foreign language, world history, english, etc...). These exams are given usually the second and third week of June which is why our school year is so long.

At the grade school level, the last week of school usually has a number of half days involved. Students help the teachers pack up the classroom, have some fun activities such as school field day (outdoor activities and games), school picnic, or other community building activities. This is also when the kids get the assignment for the summer (usually summer reading requirements).

At the university level, most schools end in Mid-May. There is usually the end of classes the first week of May, followed by a "reading day" in which students can study for exams. Exams may be anywhere from 4-10 days depending on the university. The weeks leading up to the end of the semester, students start looking for summer or permanent jobs. Even during finals week, many students go home, returning their possessions they use during the year to their homes or moving into off-campus housing (for the following year) and/or looking for summer jobs. This year was especially hard for our region to find summer jobs as many of the chronically unemployed and senior citizens now work the traditional summer jobs year round so temporary part-time employment is not available. As a result, many college students are working retail and camp jobs, often the jobs taken by high school students.

After finals week, there is usually a week of activities for graduating students culminating in the graduation ceremonies.

High school students don't graduate (for the most part) until the third week of June. Often, high school seniors are done with their regents exams so most seniors are finished with school by the first week of June. Between exams and graduation, seniors take their class trip, attend their senior prom (formal dance for those outside of the US), participate in College orientations/registration (although this may happen throughout the summer) if they are attending college or begin job training (for those going to work right out of high school). For those with jobs (which I mentioned is low this year) they begin to work a full-time shift.

After the graduation ceremonies, either the day or weekend of, or during the summer, most students have graduation parties. These parties can either be elaborate (rented hall) to simple (family in the backyard) or anywhere in between (combined with others, at a park, etc...). Usually, the students receives cash to use in college or to establish themselves (i.e. deposit on an apartment) if they are going to be working full-time. Throughout the summer, graduates will attend parties for their friends. My son has 2-4 parties a weekend, every weekend until he leaves for college in August.

Interestingly enough, college graduation usually does not result in a big party. It is high school graduation which is considered the important milestone. The other important milestone (though not as much as high school graduation) is the transition from Middle School to High School. Often there is a middle school graduation, at the end of the school year. Most people I know have a small family party to mark the middle school graduation, but more often than not, this is celebrated by going out to dinner. Some schools also have a formal dance, but often that is the private schools rather than public schools.

Once the school year is over, many families take a vacation. Depending on the year, the end of the school year might fall close to the end of June which allows for an extended vacation over the 4th of July holiday. At any rate, most people in New York take their vacations the end of June, or first week of July or during the week before Labor Day (the end of August). Most camps start right after July 4 and do until the first or second week of August.

So how does this compare to the end of the year for where you are? I'd be interested in knowing what some of the rituals are for others outside of NY state.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mobile Technology: An instructor's viewpoint

I was a member of a panel at a recent CDETG conference on Mobile Technology. CDTEG is a group of people interested in integrating technology at the higher ed level. The group, started by a classmate of mine, is comprised of instructional designers, members of ITS, employees of educational technology developers, professors and instructors, and administrators/Educational Technology policy makers in upstate/northeastern New York state. The organization is set up to create a dialog and share information about issues around educational technology at the university level.

This last meeting was on mobile technology, something that I have noticed is a growing trend in my classes. I thought it might be useful for my readers to read about some of the take aways from the conference that I will be including in my teaching this year.

1) One of the first speakers was a project manager for an online syllabus developer, Itellidemia. I had never thought of the mechanics behind mobile technology (partly because I don't use apps on any of my own mobile technology...my phone is just that: a phone, not access to the internet). However, since many of my students use their phones and pads/tablets as their access to the internet, it is important that I understand the technical requirements behind apps.

2) There are two different types of apps: read only and interactive. As the presentation by the project manager at Intellidemia and the ITS programming team from the College of St. Rose explained, Native Apps are those that are designed to work with a specific device. For example, St. Rose developed an interactive registration app where students could check on the status of a class during registration, and be put on a waitlist to be notified via their phone when a seat opened up. This required customization between the different phone types (i.e. droid, blackberry, iphone). The other type of app is a read only which means that the app is webbased in which a phone can access the web for information but cannot interact/change information. Student notifications of events or class cancellations used this technology for mobile technology. An instructor or administrator would need to access the site via a computer or Mac, and once the information was changed, a mobile technology formatted version would be available to students via their mobile device. Technologically, this is a lot easier for ITS departments to program, but it also means less customization and interaction.

3) Students need intrinsic motivation to use apps and mobile devises educationally. In my own experience, (this was part of my presentation), you can offer alternatives that students can access mobilely, but ultimately it is up to the student to decide which tool (if any) they want to use or will engage them. For example, I had a very interesting program I assigned, that students could down load onto the ipod or watch using their laptop. I thought students would prefer this to reading a boring article about the same topic. However, about half of the students did not do the assignment. Some students just preferred to read rather than watch a video on line.

Our discussion at CDETG concluded that not all students like to use technology to learn, nor do they have access to mobile technologies that will interact with the material. So it is important to provide alternatives for students. One affordance that mobile technology allows is different means of access depending on student preference for learning.

4) Often, instructors are unaware of the opportunities/affordances of new technology. Also, because of the wide range of technologies and limited time faculty have, there is resistance to changing or adopting new technology. It is important, therefore, to identify faculty members that might be interested in integrating new technology into their teaching and use them for pilot programs.

Empire State College (I was a member of their adjunct faculty at the advent of online learning) does a good job of getting their faculty to use new technology by choosing volunteers they will train and support during pilot projects, then getting the faculty to recruit colleagues who become interested when they see what can be done with the new technology. They used this format in mobile technology, drawing faculty from education, business, science, and humanity departments. Each faculty member created a pilot program for their own course, which was then assessed by the ITS department. The results were disseminated during the required annual training sessions. Having concrete goals and outcomes for the pilot programs helped convince faculty members that there was a role in education for mobile technology.

5) A major consideration for faculty is that they don't have time to learn all of the possible apps or different types of mobile technology available for their students. The group concluded that a faculty member does not need to know how specific devises work or what apps are available. Rather, they need to know what technology can do and have their students find specific apps or instructions on how their particular devise works.

Among the affordances instructors and instructional designers need to consider are a) how the technology will be used (read only or interactive), b) formatting so that it will be accessible to mobile devises (i.e. format is narrow and/or in small chunks so it will be easy to find read on a smaller mobile device), c) why the technology will be accessed mobily, d) when (in what context such as class, homework, administrative updates, etc...) mobile devises will be used to access course content/activities, e)support available to the student and faculty in developing mobile content (level of ITS support, support from the devise or app).

In my own teaching, I know integrate mobile technology into my classes by sending students out of the classroom to work on activities and keeping in touch with them as I (and other students) stay in the classroom. I also allow student to access resources through their mobile devises on certain activities. Sometimes I will have them begin without their mobile devices, then allow them later in an activity to access the devices.

This summer, I am trying to learn more about mobile devices and technology that interact with it. This is one of the reasons why I am playing around with twitter (yes, I plan to send students out of the class room and use twitter to communicate with them). One tool I am going to try out is a create-your-own app site recommended at the conference.

Related blog: The Instructional Design Guy

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Twitter update: Are you a follower or do you follow

As mentioned last week, I am playing around with twitter for a computer mediated communication course I will be teaching next semester. Thanks to one of my blog readers, Anne Marie, I got a good jump on how to be a follower on twitter. She recommended:

If you want some people to follow have a look at this list of people who I have labled as 'learning' http://twitter.com/#/list/amcunningham/learning
I'm not sure what you mean by 'follow twitter sites'. You follow accounts not sites.
It's not necessary to get any notifications my email. But I still allow notifications to my usual email address of DMs (direct messages).
How to access twitter? I think the best way is to download a desktop application such as tweetdeck. It's easiest to see everything that is happening then. But the main webpage is still manageable.

I got so caught up in looking through her list, I forgot to "follow" her! I found, though, that others had followers that were interesting. So I looked at who some of my favorite bloggers were following. One problem with this is that sometimes you loose the context of who they are, so I made sure that I also looked at their biography.

So lesson #1: make sure that you have a "vision" for twitter (just as you would for blogging) and that is evident in your biography.

Lesson #2: check out your favorite bloggers and their followers/people they follow. This helps you to create a network that will be helpful to you.

One thing that I noticed was that I had 3 readers immediately. What was odd to me was that none of them had followers and they had no tweets. This got me to wondering why they would follow someone and not tweet. One possibility is that they use twitter as a resource to find out about certain resources. At least one of my followers appears to be this as she is a marketing blogger. She may follow any one who has "communication" in their description to capture trends and resources.

Another possibility is that they too are new to Twitter and I am a follower of someone that they know, but being new to twitter don't have anything at this point to tweet (or rather are too nervous).

The third possibility is much more nefarious. Like with Linkedin or Facebook, they may want to get a large following so when they finally tweet, it will have a greater impact, putting them on the "favorites" page immediately.

Getting a following

I'm not sure how I got the initial following. However, I did get a few more followers through becoming a follower myself. This is like friending on facebook in which a person has the ability to reciprocate the "follower". I may not want to know about the person following me, so I don't feel obliged to reciprocate (nor do any of those I follow need to feel obliged).

In getting others to follow me, I need to let them know how to find me on twitter. Just like when I began blogging, I have to decide how public I want to make this. As I will be using this with my class, and I am still new to it, I decided to go with a pseudonym.

I also need to figure out how to tie my twitter account to my blog. Of course, as I write this, I realize that I should have named my twitter account something like @connecting2. Oh well, this is something I will need to work out in the future.

I would appreciate any suggestions from my readers on how to expand my following. You can also follow me (I'll post new blog post titles on twitter) at Comprof1 (that is the number 1 at the end) unless I decide to change name in the next week or so (let me know if you think I should keep what I have or change the name or create a new twitter account that is dedicated to the blog and items related to the blog).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Looking on the bright side

I am an optimist by nature. However, just like all humans, there are times when the pressures of living, studying, working, dealing with teenagers...get to me. And then I take stock of what is going on in the rest of the world and it puts things into perspective.

My cousins live in the Springfield, MA area and at least one's town got "walloped" (as she put it).


But they had no damage. We had baseball sized hail in our area (those storms turned into the tornados when they passed over the NY border into Massachusetts).

This video was taken right in Downtown Springfield (they were right near the basketball hall of fame...this is the major north/south interstate down to Hartford).

But my family and I came through unscathed. So I am concentrating on the fact that my son came through knee surgery fine, I have a part-time job next fall (I'd like a full-time job but part-time is good), my daughter has the chance to concentrate on dance and her school work (so it doesn't matter if she didn't get into the play she tried out for), and my husband still has a job.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Entering the world of "Twitter"

As many of my loyal readers know, I don't do "twitter". This, however, is about to change as I prepare to teach a course in computer mediated communication next semester. In fact, I don't think I can teach CMC without looking at the type of communication used in twitter and facebook. So for the next few weeks, I will be setting up a twitter account and blog about my journey in trying to figure out 1) how to use twitter; 2) communication strategies for twitter; and 3) how to incorporate it into my class.

What I've learned so far

In preparation for using twitter, I went to the website. I was impressed at the amount of information and support in setting up twitter there was. This may be a reason why it has taken off in the last couple of years.

I know that when I set up my twitter account, I should not only be interested in getting people to follow my account, but also I should begin by following other people based on my interest.

I also know that twitter consists of short messages which I assume means little context in the tweets. This is why so many who use twitter connect to a webpage or blog. The webpages and blogs can give context that short messages cannot. I relate this to the difference between telegrams and letters in the 19th and early 20th century. Telegrams gave basic information that without context made very little sense. A follow up letter would give the details that would give a telegram context or there needed to be personal/shared experience that would give a telegram meaning.

Twitter works well with mobile technology. However, twitter users tend to be older or professionals (corporations). I also read a report that said that twitter was used more by African Americans than facebook. Little is known why there is that preference except that twitter works well with cell phones.

What I don't know

In the next few weeks, I will need to identify some people to follow.
The twitter site gives some ideas on how to do this. However, I'm interested in knowing how others set up their twitter followers.

The site also gives advise on how to follow twitter sites. I am going to need to figure out how to do this without overfilling my email. Do others use a separate email account? What about something similar to RSS feeds? Are there RSS feeds or readers for twitter like with blogs?

How are tweets different than other forms of online communication? Can they be stored and accessed later? Nancy White recently had a post in which tweets were pieced together to create a story/dialog. Can this be done in a central location (i.e. facebook's wall to wall which shows discussions between two people)?

I'd appreciate any help you can give me and I will continue to post my progress.