Server. Useless.

Today was a PD hosted at my school to teach teachers how to take Thinking Maps and Constructing Meaning to the next level.  Participants learned various strategies about incorporating sentence frames with thinking maps and then to add rigor…add Thinking Tools.  It was an informative workshop.  Everything was going really well until I revealed that everyone was encouraged to upload their lessons to a shared folder in GoogleDocs.  I knew it would be challenging to get teachers just to make an account for Google, but I thought I had it covered by making a “How to” list for them.  What I didn’t count on was the fact that the server would be down today which meant that over half the staff was unable to access the Internet.  At all.  For the whole day.

Are you kidding me?!  Our CRA doesn’t return until next Wednesday.  Our first staff day is next Tuesday.  How are teachers expected to get ready for the start of the school year if they can’t get on their computers until the day before school?  It’s not like these teachers waited until the last minute…we have one week left of summer.  Many of them came today to learn new strategies.  But over half of them (I suspect it was nearly half) were unable to participate in sharing their hard work.

I was really bummed that technology chose today to not work.  Do you know how hard it is to get my staff to use technology???  They are so hesitant.  Almost afraid.  And I get it. Technology is scary.  It’s constantly changing.  And some of them are just along for the ride.  But when a PD is created around the idea of using the Internet (more specifically GoogleDocs)…and half of the staff can’t access their account, what good does that do for us?  Argh.

What a frustrating way to start the school year.  At least my school scored 803 on the CST.  Finally…we made it to 800.  But we’re still PI.  We have a long way to go.  And technology is quickly becoming a frustrating barrier.

Creating an Online Course

Well the research states it and online teachers support it…so I’m not surprised to admit that setting up an online course requires A LOT of prep work before it’s opened to the students.  Now, I’m a piddler and I like to edit or maybe I feel like I need to edit things until they look just right.  (I think I mentioned that in a previous post.)  But boy…yesterday was a long day working with my co-facilitator to revise the last minute changes to the course we had officially started yesterday.

One of the saving graces is that the fact that we could turn off the later modules until we had resolved some of our issues with the course content.  I don’t think this would have been such an under-taking, but we are delivering a course that we did not create.  We went through the course…we are now trainer of trainers…but there were flaws or gaps in the course modules.  As a newbie teacher, I’m sure we all remember that we were to start with the standard and learning objective before writing any kind of lesson plan or assessment.  Well, if you’re using backwards planning, I guess you start with the standard–>learning objective–>assessment.  But I digress.  This course is tied to the standards (iNACOL), but each individual project/activity was not specifically tied to a standard nor did it have a learning objective explicitly stated.  Yes, I’m sure that as teachers we figured out what the course writers wanted, but if we’re modeling good teaching practices for the online teacher, then we need to make sure that all of our projects/activities are tied to a standard and have a learning objective specifically stated.  It’s a no brainer in my book and the same goes with my co-facilitator – which is why I believe that we hit it off so well.  =)

But let me tell you…it’s hard to match a standard to a lesson if the lesson was created first.   First of all, we found that the lesson activities fell under several standards…so which one were the lesson creators thinking about when writing the lesson?  We’ll never know for sure, but my co-facilitator and I gave it our best shot.  Talk about putting the cart before the horse!  Geesh.

We finished putting standards and learning objectives to each project/activity yesterday for the rest of our course.    I’m glad that’s done as now I feel we’re better able to model good teaching practices for the online teacher.  But let me just point out a fact…good teaching practices are good teaching practices no matter if it’s done in a F2F classroom or online.  Period.  I cringe when I hear other people (especially educators) who disparage online teaching as not being a viable way for students to learn.  How do they know?  Did they take an online course?  Was that course taught by an instructor who used best teaching practices?  Heck, I could give an argument as to why F2F instruction doesn’t always work either.  We’ve all had teachers/professors who were not utilizing best teaching practices…all of us.  So, why disparage other educators who are reaching out to students in a different medium?  I thought we were all on the same team.  We’re already being lambasted in the media by political pundits who wouldn’t know a best teaching practice if it hit him upside the head.  But that’s beside the point, I just don’t understand why other educators are coming down on fellow colleagues for trying to offer a different way to support student learning.  Online learning can be meaningful…the same way that a traditional classroom can offer.  We’re both going for the same goal.  To help students learn.  To give them the skills that will help them long after they leave our class.  To develop productive citizens who are going to contribute to this great country in which we live.  So, please…fellow educators…stop bashing online learning.  We’re supposed to be a team.  

Sorry for the tangent.  I wouldn’t be on this rant if I didn’t hear this somewhere (many times) or had it squarely said to my face (a couple of times).  I’m not one for confrontation.  I just want to do what I believe is my calling which is to teach children.  To reach out to them…to excite the mind…to encourage the curiosity of learning.  I had great teachers and bad teachers in both venues.  But what makes the great teachers stand out from the bad teachers is their ability to support my learning style, to encourage my curiosity, to let me think and work outside of the box, to foster creativity…to allow me the freedom to dictate what I was going to learn from the standards and learning objectives set before me.  Good teaching is good teaching.  No matter the medium.  And I’m glad that I’m finally able to offer my services as an educator in the online environment.  =)

iMovie = Not Intuitive

Today I decided to put together the clips and photos of my adorable nephew playing “jenga” with his gigantic cardboard blocks.  This isn’t the first time I’ve used iMovie.  This isn’t the first time I’ve use iPhoto.  This, however, is the first time I’m using the new movie trailer option from iMovie…and let’s just say that IT’S NOT INTUITIVE.  Now…I’m a die-hard Mac fan.  I promote their products and sing their accolades every chance I get.  I love Macs.  I love their user-friendly features.  I love how everything has cute little logos or buttons.  I love how seamlessly the various applications work together behind the scenes so that we can make pretty amazing products with little to no headaches and minus the frustration.  But not today.

Today I spent almost an hour just trying to figure out why my videos from iPhoto were not visible in my iMovie event library.  I try to troubleshoot things on my own before going to the help menu because after all Macs are user-friendly.  But alas, even the Help menu for iMovie was no help.  Come ON!  Really?  Not a trouble-shooting section where we could go to seek answers on why we can’t see our videos in iPhoto?  I have to admit.  I said a few choice words.  I pounded my fist in frustration.  I think I scared my cat.

So, I took a deep breath…and just sat there.  Hoping that somehow, someway the answer would just magically appear.  I closed both applications.  I opened both applications.  I opened my newly created project with nothing in it.  And then a little window pops up asking me if I want iMovie to make thumbnails of my videos.  I clicked “no” earlier because it said that it would take a little while to do so and I didn’t have a little while.  I wanted to make the video, send it to my brother and go sit on the couch to read my new book.  But this time, I read the text.  All. of. it.    Apparently I can’t see any of the videos in iPhoto unless a thumbnail is made of it in iMovie.  Well, DUH!  So, why is it an option to hold off making thumbnails later if you can’t view videos to use in iMovie?  Apple normally doesn’t try to confuse its loyal followers, but this one takes the cake.  The default should be to immediately make thumbnails of the videos because how else are you going to make a flippen’ movie?!?!  Am I frustrated?  Yes.  Of course!

But now that I’ve vented, it’s time to go back to what was supposed to bring me pleasure and that is making a video of my adorable nephew playing jenga with his gigantic cardboard blocks.  Wish me luck!