Monday, December 23, 2013

 Day time & night views. (My cell camera isn't the greatest.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Almost finished with grades! Tonight we are going to Advent Lessons and Carols at the Parish of St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph in Rensselaer. Four choirs from Southern Rensselaer County (including ours) will be participating. Can't wait!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I've had my nose to the grindstone, and as a result can predict I will be finished with Fall grades well before the deadline. I did take a break Wednesday (to go the A Christmas Carol at Cap Rep), Sunday (to go to church, do laundry, remove homepage hijacker from the laptop, shovel snow -- winter has come early -- had our second storm today. Below zero temps last night), and Monday (for faith formation). 

We made batik (using Elmer's glue) and tie dye Sacred Heart Church logo tee-shirts. We planned to use Koolaid for the dye, but the prototypes we made were a disaster. We had cotton shirts, and Koolaid washes right out of natural fabrics. So we used a non-toxic dye made for kids instead. As preparation, the kids studied the painting "The Sacred Heart" (1954, Roy de Maistre).

It took two classes, and the shirts came out unbelievably good! Chalk it up to divine intervention, lol. Half the kids were absent the night we did the dye part, and Bob wants to tie dye again in January so the kids who were absent last week can make a shirt too. 

We handed the finished shirts out last night, studied "Nativity" by Elena Khmeleva, drew the nativity scene, and watched A Charlie Brown Christmas." Now we're on break until January 6.
This shirt most closely matches my "vision" for this project

Friday, December 13, 2013

After discovering no plagiarism since Spring 2012 (and congratulating myself that the "academic integrity awareness quiz" I designed that summer after that dreadful hearing episode was working like a charm), yesterday I found a shocking, and disheartening case. Disappointing not so much due to the guilty party -- a fairly weak student -- but because the stolen essay was written by a favorite, outstanding student from the past who I never would have suspected of being ethically challenged.

But I forged ahead, and finished all the essays even though documenting and reporting cheating takes a lot of time I don't have, thank you very much.

I forgot: the batik and tie dye shirts for faith formation came out awesome! Must be divine inspiration. The kids will be so proud, we will put on the finishing touches on Monday (and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. I'll post pictures soon.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Both my 96 year old uncle (his wife is my mother's sister) and my dissertation chair (age 82, had Alzheimer's for a couple years) died yesterday. So I am re-posting this youtube of the interview of my uncle I did in 2011 that my nephew recorded & edited. He stayed vital right until the end. A very well-lived life. Feeling melancholy but also blessed to have known these two men.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The only picture I took in my travels. Achilles is a huge GSD. Very lovable too. My friend adopted him in September.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'll be traveling and so won't be around a computer for much of the day tomorrow -- and once I am, I won't be writing here. So to commemorate the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, I will link to this old post of mine, "Gym Teacher from H-ll."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I'm in OK shape as the end of semester approaches. But, I am sure to plunge myself into a backlog shortly, as I plan to go to Buffalo to visit my "best" friend from November 22-24, and then from Thanksgiving until December 1 we'll be in Samsonville with little opportunity for working. I have an overly ambitious list of things to do on the days I will be working (tomorrow, and Monday-Wednesday of next week).

Monday was strangely warm, but since then it's gotten quite cold. One benefit, the skateboard-riding students have vanished.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Evaluating midterms. It's a task I dislike, and so tend to procrastinate. But, I buckled down and I've made good progress. So far, they are OK overall, in the A- to C- range.

Friday, November 08, 2013

I've been struggling with this post, started a private journal post on the subject to vent, abandoned writing even that. This semester I have a larger number of students than usual who are struggling. I've referred a couple for academic support. Some are slackers, some are overwhelmed by various life issues. There are attendance problems, assignments that are weak, late, or missing entirely. A big presentation looms next week, and this is the time in the semester where most students are felling pressured.

I like all my classes a lot. There are always many wonderful students, even the struggling ones. This week was trying, though. My Tuesday evening class is often my favorite in any semester. This fall, it is a good group, especially participatory, and the atmosphere is relaxed. However, there are some struggling students, some needy students, and also some slackers. Three incidents happened during class -- all concerning strong students -- that really bothered me.

I won't elaborate more than this, as who knows who lands here, and it wouldn't be right for me to describe any of the students' actions specifically. Suffice to say this week tested me, caused me to dwell on it afterwards.

Then yesterday I found out that I got  a raise and change in status, and that went a long way toward making all right in my (professional) world. It was a much-needed boost. Funny how things work out.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

As part of our focus on St. Francis of Assisi and animals, we are having a guest with a service dog visit class in two weeks. So last night we prepared, by reading the book "My Buddy, watching a couple short videos about service dogs, and making posters of "hero" dogs. This was our sample, crafted from photos of dogs we actually know:
Yesterday was my father's last day of radiation (for a slight re-growth of his brain tumor; this was not unexpected). Still, schlepping to Albany every weekday since September 23 takes a toll. We went to lunch at Sam's

when he had his first consultation at St. Peter's back in August. Sam's is closed Mondays, so yesterday we went to Lombardo's. You don't need three guesses to figure out what I had: Eggplant Parmesan. Both times. (Not that I have not had it many, many times in-between as well).

PS new shoes are AWESOME

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Can it be that high schools really no longer have the full array of social cliques, as when I was in school?

I started this post on the 16th and it has been in draft ever since. I thought maybe I would draw instead, but haven't done that either. I think it has been a barrier to my writing anything else I am moving on.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

I am tired from the weekend, which was long and lovely. We are having a gorgeous fall and I'd like to spend more of it at home. But, "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride," I suppose!
It was a beautiful setting for a wedding reception.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Campus Pet Peeves. Fall 2013 Edition:

1) Today the din in the LC common area was so loud it about knocked me over. Worse, one young woman's irritating shriek-voice could be hears above it. Yes, yes, I know I am an active listener who can't abide noise, but I fantasized elbowing my way through the crowd (as if such a thing would be possible), taking her by the shoulders and say "you ever hear of 'inside' voice?"

2) Skateboards. Ban them from the podium, please. There seems to be more young men riding them every semester. A chill goes up my spine every time one whizzes past me. I have a vision of being knocked down, of my foot getting run over, of my left leg getting more injured, of my right leg joining my left's feebleness, of losing the ability to walk, or at the very least, acquiring an even worse limp. I know I sound like a bitter old lady who doesn't remember the joy of being young, but why can't the d-mn sk8ters just walk?

3) I can't stand Aramark, the new food contractor. Yes, I think it's fabulous that they are featuring some local foods and vendors, but the majority of choices are carbohydrate heavy. Maybe that's what students prefer, I don't know. Pretend to be "green" and "organic" and "healthy" while you scarf down a bagel and hot pretzel. Most upsetting to me, the fruit, yogurt, granola bar is gone! That was one of the things that made it worthwhile to limp over there.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

I’m fortunate to be able to wear clothes to work that are pretty much always in the “business casual” arena. Besides that, my usual garb consists of tattered, roomy tee-shirts and shorts or sweat pants when I am home, or jeans and a “nicer” long-sleeved tee when I am out.

Trying to find clothing to wear to a “fancier” event is a chore. This is definitely complicated by my hatred for shopping. I buy nearly everything I wear online, from LL Bean or Hanes. I have some more formal clothes that I have worn a few times or bought for a special occasion and wore once. Yesterday I tried on numerous items in the closet in an effort to find something decent to wear. Studying my reflection in a few of the outfits reminded me of a hilarious Mimmie-ism: “Looks like a burlap sack of potatoes with a string tied around the middle.”

I finally came across a couple possibilities for a skirt, pants or blazer, but no shirt was right. So I entered the black hole of searching online. It was frustrating to say the least. It seems in younger days you can look good in nearly anything, but I don’t think clothing manufacturers are considering the middle-aged with some of these styles. I finally found what I hope will be a suitable shirt (on amazon!). I’ll know Wednesday whether to bring a hoe or a handbag with me as an accessory.

Friday, October 04, 2013

I'm sort of annoyed about my textbook this semester. The issues I have with the Create book have not been successfully resolved, despite the best efforts (or maybe that should be double talk) of the rep. In fact, I'm considering throwing in the towel, and going back to two books. A Sage representative has been "after" me, and I just might go with them for my second book.

Today was the last straw. I want a desk copy of the Create book that I can see on a tablet or smartphone. I want to see what students are buying, and I want to be able to read it on a device. I've asked several times and thus far have been unable to pry this from the publisher. So I installed Calibre and tried to convert the PDF proof into Kindle format. Guess what? The file is locked by DRM. Of course it is!

Collaborate in the classroom still eludes me this semester. I tried the camera at home, and got the same error message in Collaborate as on campus. So I tried it with other apps, and it worked fine.

I tried google, and discovered these two links:

I haven't been able to get the work around solution to work at home yet, as I don't get an update driver choice in device manager. I will stop trying to figure it out at home at this point, as I have spent too much time on this already and my regular lower-end webcam works just fine. That's what I use at home anyway.

I'm not sure why the widescreen worked fine over the summer in my class, maybe something to do with XP? Or the driver in the room? I still want to use the widescreen on presentation days (all mid-November) on campus. I doubt I will have time to
install/test the work around in the classrooms in the 10 minutes between classes (or the machines will let me).

The response I received so far? "Use your home camera instead of the widescreen."

In the online class, the situation is brighter. Collaborate is perfect for the initial real-time group chats. And yesterday I canceled my evening class and recorded my lecture and slideshow using Collaborate at home for students to watch instead. Worked great!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Recently we went to the City Beer Hall. It's located in a building I've always loved. It once housed the telephone company and the interior wood panelling is gorgeous. Years ago it was a favorite fancy restaurant of ours. Since then it has been a few different bar/restaurants, none of them very good. In between it has been sadly vacant. Well, I'm delighted to report it is a good place again. Not fancy, but the food is delicious and different (and several choices are vegan or vegetarian), and for those into beer, the selection is wide. The wine list is short, but it has one of my NYS favorites (Salmon Run Chardonnay).

Friday, September 27, 2013

The latest error when I try to use my webcam with collaborate in the classroom. Sigh.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Collaborate is working well in the online class. I used it for the initial real-time chat with the first group instead of Blackboard chat. There were only two students attending, and they loved it. They even suggested having an all-class session. After my experience in the blended class this summer, I agree that would be something to pursue in the fully online class, but before requiring one or maybe two real-time all-class webinars, I would prefer the dates be published in the schedule, so students are committing when they register. Maybe I will pilot this during winter session. I usually only have 10-12 strong students enrolled. Spring will depend on how that goes.

Neither of the two students used the webcam, and I did not either. I used a mic and talked to them, and they typed questions for me in chat, and also interacted with each other using text chat. They planned to try using it for their four member group this week, without me. I will have to follow up with them to see how that went.

On campus had been more troublesome. The drivers were installed in my classrooms late last week, so I decided to test it on Tuesday. I had a packed agenda already, but since it was mostly a lecture class, I thought it might be good to have it recorded. Absent students or the online class could watch it. This was the day where I schlep a suitcase on wheels full of common school artifacts to class. That alone is hassle enough (as the LC level is not very accessible), but this email arrived shortly before class.

All in all, the class turned out good – I was “on” and students were on their best behavior, also very participatory and engaged with the objects and material. But the webcam didn’t work, I got an update Windows administrator log in prompt. I didn’t have time to waste on fooling with it, what with the Provost’s office & Economic Development videographer taping class.

In the evening class, I wasn’t optimistic that it would work, and it didn’t. The same Windows update prompt came up when I plugged in the webcam. A barrier to trying to troubleshoot in this class was that while I had spoken to them briefly about Collaborate on the first day, I hadn’t bothered to show it to them, because I already knew the drivers wouldn’t be there. Just me plugging in the webcam and pointing it at class made them apprehensive. The evening section this semester has more slightly older than traditional college-age students who work full time. They are very serious and a little anxious and overwhelmed. So I cut my losses, and told them the only time I would use it (assuming I can get it to work at all) is in November on their presentation day.

I contacted classroom tech support again, and they tested it this morning. The Windows update prompt came up, but apparently the webcam will still work (at least in Windows Movie Maker, which is how they tested it) after doing nothing but closing the pop-up. So I will try it in Collaborate next week.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happy Birthday to me! But...52! How can that be? We're going to go on a dinner cruise on the Dutch Apple.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

At 11:47 AM, I received the following email from the Provost's Office: "Some moments ago I tried to call each of you regarding a request from a videographer from the Empire State Development Corporation who is working with the Governor's office to get background scenes of campus life for a START-UP NY piece. They would like to take stock footage (video, no sound) in a variety of teaching situations sometime before 3 p.m. today. The Registrar has identified your class as a candidate for this purpose, and I wanted to try to contact you in advance to obtain your permission." 

My class started at 1:15 PM. My first thoughts were "thank God I wore decent clothes and my hair looks good today." (LOL.) The crew showed up a few minutes after class started. Students were on good behavior. I can't wait to see the footage.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Three weeks into the semester and I have a pretty good sense of my classes. In the online class, I tried using Collaborate for the initial group chat and I couldn't be more pleased. The evening section is a very serious and high calibre cohort so far. Many of the students are a little older than traditional college aged, and that's always a good thing. The day section has one group of very engaged students, but the jury is still out on the rest of class. Finally, Toleration seems as if it will be pretty good, although it's still early (it has only met twice due to last week's holiday).

Changing the book in foundations has been both a disappointment and a good challenge.A Disappointment because of all this, and also because I've had second thoughts about some of the chapters in the new book I chose. A good challenge because it has forced me to be creative and to make some long overdue changes in certain assignments.

Today Mimmie would have been 109. I don't think she'd mind a shameless plug for my book. Happy birthday Mimmie!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We had a baptism at church on Sunday and I am still irritated. I wish our pastor would either announce at the beginning that non-Catholics shouldn't go to Communion, or better yet he would tell the parents to let their friends & relatives know what is appropriate behavior. This family was mostly from downstate & they were so rude. The kids who were with them got up constantly and had to be taken to the bathroom. That wasn't too bad, and I tried hard not to feel judgmental but it was not easy mostly due to the adults. One young woman sitting in front of us was quite zaftig and wearing a ridiculous revealing and unflattering dress. She & her boyfriend or husband and another couple spent the whole Mass talking, rolling their eyes, and snickering. They would not give us room to kneel, they did not shake our hands during the sign of peace, they exited loudly as a group before the final hymn, and before the priest & altar servers came down the aisle. They went to communion, cutting off the people in the pew ahead of them to get in line. I don't know if they were given a host because I'm sure they had no clue what to say to receive and when it was my turn, the priest was whispering something to the other eucharistic minister. They did not even clap when the baby was welcomed to the congregation! When we came outside they were standing there smoking. I know I should be happy that they came at all, but I wish they showed some respect. If they are going to act like a-holes, why did they bother to come? Just go directly to the party -- or be honest about your feelings and RSVP "no" entirely. I don't know how the priests tolerate it.

Speaking of tolerating, one lesson I took from the church nightmare is that I have to be sure to remind my toleration class about being respectful when they visit the sites for the Discomfort Zone assignment. I always do, and I think students take it to heart, but the baptism is reminding me. There has only been a problem once that I know of (when a guy took his girlfriend who wasn't in the class along with him to an Overeater's Anonomous meeting and he hadn't warned her to keep her mouth shut and just observe and she "outed" him). 

And...for something completely unrelated, this has not been a good year for my garden overall, but my pole beans are doing great!

Monday, September 09, 2013

We saw Ain't Them Bodies Saints on Saturday night. It was an interesting movie, thoughtful and well-acted. Don't see it when you are seeking an "upper," however. Before the movie, we went to New World and sampled their excellent eggplant "meatballs." They are in a competition for U.S. Food Next Top Product.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

I got the new Margaret Atwood book and it was all I could do to resist reading it immediately this morning! But it's a beautiful day and I had to do "poop patrol" and weed whack first, so I forced myself.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Question: why do students miss some class requirement (such as several classes or an assignment) and then send me an email that says "I hope this won't impact my grade" ?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Since I've had two weeks of classes at this point, I written some feedback on the publishing tool / process I used (called Create) to make the required book.

1. Electronic version:

  • I never received anything from the publisher, for either my Philosophy of Ed reader or Foundations reader, aside from a password-protected PDF "proof." I would have liked to have an electronic desk copy I could have tried on my droid
  • The PDF does not allow me to copy/paste or print. I'd like to be able to do this when I am creating course materials, rather than having to type text myself, or scan/photocopy from the print book.
  • The format of the ebook is for apple or android only. So while a Kindle fire works, a plain Kindle or Nook do not. Many students (& I) use plain Kindle (or Nook) -- it is hands-down the most popular & best ereader since it is not backlit.
2. Design:
  • The print book for Foundations is large & cumbersome. I prefer a smaller size for thick books.
  • The Table of Contents lists the readings as Chapter 1, 2, 3 etc. I would much prefer it if it kept the format of the original book.
  • I'd also like an identifying divider page between the two books.
3. Cost etc.:
  • The ereader from the publisher is a good value, but the print version from the bookstore is not.
  • I am not sure that it is worthwhile for me to spend the time making a Create book, given the fact that the electronic version is not available for a kindle, and the print version is large & cumbersome, when I can direct students to purchase two off-the-shelf books instead, i.e., the full taking sides & studying education books from amazon in paper or kindle format, or as electronic apple/android versions from the publisher. 
  • If I didn't feel bad about students spending $81 on the book (and the bookstore has a nasty returns policy), I would probably not use it again this spring. This assumes the bookstore gives them anything for it in buyback, but I have my doubts. As it is, I don't believe I will bother making updates so I can use it again in '14-'15.
For the second semester in a row, my afternoon class is in one of the small lecture centers. The windows that overlook the large fountain in the LC level have been covered with plywood and sheetrock for over a year. This semester the plywood is gone, but the work is not finished yet so the doors to the stairs in the courtyard are still blocked. I took this picture yesterday.

Friday, August 30, 2013

First week back on campus is a wrap. This was taken yesterday on the way to my afternoon class.  It's quite a shock to see so many people after my quiet summer! Two changes in student "style" noted: 1) Enormous Jansport backpacks are back in and 2) Huge black-framed eyeglasses are all the rage.
It was good to see these guys after my long day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I settled on how to use Collaborate this Fall in all my classes. I recorded the welcome lecture for online class using it. The upside was that I can have the slideshow captured with the audio and video. Using my old record pad for audio uploaded to required students to run the powerpoint & audio file separately/manually. The downside, the audio quality is not as good as with record pad, so I am undecided whether to record future lectures with it. I'm wondering if using a separate mic would help. I don't want to use my table mic because it will be awkward on video, and I think my headset would also be awkward. I have seen clip on USB mics, perhaps something to consider. Regardless, I am planning to try it for the first optional real time “office hours” chat I offer (9/9), rather than using the built-in blackboard chat tool, which I have never liked.

On campus, I decided that I would show it to them on the first day, and plan to use it to record their group presentations in November. Whether I will use it otherwise is TBD. I think if weather is bad later in the semester or something else crops up that would result in canceling class, I might try holding a collaborate session instead. I’ve also been considering using it to tamp down two behaviors I dislike, excessive absence and non-class related laptop / tablet / smart phone use in class. If students know they are expected to join class via Collaborate when they are absent, and log into it from their laptop (or tablet) when they have devices in class, that would be turning negatives into positives. I’m not sure of the logistics at this point, so it’s still just under consideration. Yesterday few (no?) Students had laptops and while smartphones were almost as common as ever (some students are careful on the first day), I saw few tablets.

In general, the two on campus foundations sections seem to be less familiar with technology than usual. That's not strictly true, I don’t really have a sense in the afternoon class, as much time was wasted (by me) with Collaborate in the beginning. (More on that later.) In the evening section, I asked about their experience with Blackboard, and significantly less than half were familiar with it. I think maybe I have a lot of transfer students, because how can that be? Are a lot of UA faculty not using web-enhanced approaches?

In the afternoon, I headed to my first class really early. I wanted to get the webcam set up and upload my powerpoint into Collaborate. Alas, things did not go exactly as planned. There are only 10 minutes between the prior class and mine. The instructor of that class went the whole time and had not erased the board, gathered up her crap or surrendered the console and exited yet. A couple students had things they immediately wanted to talk to me about such as permission numbers, or routinely leaving early to make the bus because his next class is downtown. The machine demanded a log on and password, and “Guest” didn’t work. I called Classroom Tech Support and it rang at least 20 times before they answered. The connection was not good, but I managed to hear that the machines were upgraded to Windows 7 and now require individual log on by every instructor. Was there an email alerting faculty to this change that I’ve neglected to read? Oh, probably, LOL. The only “change” email I noticed was gushing about all the new eateries in Campus Center. Bye-bye Tim Horton's!

I finally got Collaborate & my powerpoint running, but couldn’t get the webcam to work. It seems I needed administrator rights to accomplish this. Oh well. I muddled through the class, but afterwards was sure I’d confused the students. I didn’t remember to ask them whether they were familiar with blackboard or if they needed me to walk them through it, instead I spent too much time with Collaborate (not really working) and it probably seemed intimidating. Ha ha, they will probably go on Rate My Professor and report that I’m disorganized & “out there.” Is that better or worse than being “weird” (my all-time favorite Rate My Professor slam from one of my students).

I have been thinking about how the task force I was on last spring and various offices try to encourage innovative approaches to teaching, but bureaucratic processes and technical glitches get in the way. Today Classroom Tech Support said they would install the drivers for the webcam on all three classroom machines I’ll be using this semester. Yay.

Monday, August 26, 2013

My classes start tomorrow. Feeling a little blue today. The end of summer break is bittersweet and it is particularly so this year.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Yesterday I spent some time thinking about how to use Collaborate in my fall foundations classes (not sure about toleration), and put the final touches on my fall online class. I used Collaborate to record the welcome, and I am pleased with the result. I am likely to use it for the real-time chats as well. I still have to figure out how to use it in the classroom, but today I updated all syllabi and I do plan show it to them on the first day. I'm practically brain dead from all the syllabi revisions I made today, many more than the average semester. Tomorrow I have to get all the Blackboard materials ready, and I will be all set for the fall semester.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A little reflection...class is over, grades are done, and I’m thinking so much more positively about this class than I did after the first time I attempted a blended class, in Spring semester 2008. There are many reasons for this, including that it was graduate, students knew in advance about the delivery method, I designed assignments that were more realistic for a blended class, and it was a summer class. But the positive impact of Collaborate cannot be ignored.

Students seem to really like the class design, and this includes many who were skeptics. Some students shared reflections on Collaborate, online and blended learning in their journals:

•    The webinars were a great opportunity to come together with my peers in an open and non-intimidating forum.  I love technology and always enjoy learning new ways to use it myself and in my classroom.
•    Had this course been purely campus-based, there would’ve been several “classes” I would’ve been unable to attend. On more than one occasion I was traveling for work or had a meeting directly before our 4-6 pm class, and was still able to “attend” via the webinar.
•    I think that there is a big difference between online and blended learning. While this blended learning had online components, the face-to-face, video lectures, and webinars really made a difference in the quality of interactions that took place. I would really like to take more blended learning courses myself.
•    Traveling makes a big difference. It is much more convenient to take an distance education course, even if there are synchronous meeting times required. I found that having the set time scheduled every week for the course, whether we met in person, online, or not at all helped to structure the course work.
•    I had never utilized Blackboard Collaborate which was a really interesting medium to hold virtual classes. After this experience, I would definitely consider enrolling in another online class. It was a great term and worked very well with the summer season. It proved to be an enriching experience.
•    The webinars were easy to use and was a nice way to work in groups without having to coordinate everyone’s schedules to meet in person. This type of schedule works perfectly, especially for the summer when people tend to travel more.

For me, the biggest disappointment had nothing to do with Collaborate, or even the blended delivery method. Unfortunately, the quality of the papers was disillusioning, to say the least. Of course there are a few papers that were excellent, and many that were at least a very good effort, but there were too many that were mediocre "gift" B/low B/even C+ range. One was so off the mark that I had asked him to revise it (with offer of incomplete).

Except in that student's case, their use of research was OK (if missing something obvious occasionally). But the writing, with the exception of the As -- was cringe worthy. Some even bordered on illiterate, and I don't mean only the nondegrees (in fact, two of them submitted a quality papers). I had to read sentences several times, out loud if I still couldn't comprehend the point. It took hours to review a (10 page) paper. I had hoped to read fascinating, insightful, thought-provoking things and write "deep" comments in response -- instead much time was spent deciphering mangled logic and making corrections to grammar, spelling, sentence structure, word choice.

Luckily, I used 30% peer assessment, which offset the bad papers enough so that I didn't have to give any final grades that will result in student appeals! I only got pushback from one student about the paper evaluations. If I teach the class again I will assign a two page paper early in the semesters to catch the bad writers and will distribute a checklist of common mistakes as well.

I’m working on getting ready for my Fall classes now, and to say I need some inspiration for my on campus foundations classes would be an understatement. I created a new reader, so that’s one change that will help. Today I was thinking about how to use Collaborate. Would it be a mistake? Will students be pissed, because I’d be repeating the folly of Spring 2008? (The classes aren’t graduate, aren’t summer classes, and students don’t know in advance?)

Monday, August 19, 2013

My summer grades are done! Yay! Now I have to get ready for the Fall semester. Where did the summer go?

Aside from my forgetting to turn on audio recording until minute 4:45 (duh), I was pleasantly surprised by how well the capture worked with the widescreen video cam at the last FTF class. Admittedly, the audio is a little difficult to decipher at times, but overall it is OK. The best part was that the video was available by the next afternoon!! This was important because three students had to leave class before the presentations were over. One student had informed me of his need to leave early before he registered, and two students had to leave because the presentation of the third team to ran twice as long as they were allocated (and I hate yanking students off the stage, even though I had a fantasy of the Gong Show). I figured, it’s summer, I didn’t require much seat time all semester, no biggie. But apparently some folks have other commitments. Go figure! Anyway, it was not an issue because the video worked out, yay.

I was a bit worried before class that the slideshows would be a hassle, as I was having a hard time loading four different files or URLs without wasting a lot of time, but using a combination of and application sharing, it worked like a charm. My feeling about the tool in general is that Collaborate is worthy of adoption by UA so that more faculty could utilize it in classes.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Took a break from grading the final papers in my grad class to get my fall online foundations class ready (it goes live two weeks before the semester begins). About the papers...well, let's just say I feel a Nileston News coming on, and leave it at that.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Great column, will be useful in Toleration.

Grades submitted yesterday for one summer class, the other ends 8/16.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

I have not had a burning desire to write very much here. I think during the first half of the summer it was enough of a challenge to keep up with my work, even the much lighter workload of summer session. Now that my life has returned to something resembling normal (and Bob finished his vacation), I spent the first two days of this week power-working -- and got completely caught up! Yesterday I worked on my plants. The beans are coming, the cukes are in blossom, the flowers look OK overall. Sadly, the tomatoes are pathetic. My inattention, and the rainy spell in June have taken a toll. I hoped the intense heat & humidity would help, but it didn't. So I fussed with them yesterday, but I am not optimistic that this will be "a good year for tomatoes" (as Mimmie would say).

Weekend visitors in Samsonville, should be fun. Harry is doing well. It's already a harmonious group.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We saw Bob's favorite show, Les Mis, at Mac-Haydn Theatre Sunday night. It was great! Best performance I've seen (& of course way better than the movie). Show continues July 31-August 4. Highly recommended!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The transition period as a pet guardian is not my favorite. It almost goes without saying that the end of life care and eventual mourning are very difficult, but introduction of a new pet into the household has different challenges. Neither Teddy nor Rosie were especially trying. Teddy had to learn stairs and Rosie had (and still has) to be crated for meals, but that was it. Harry is afraid of many things. He seems to have never been exposed to music, television, various other noises, mirrors, stairs, walking on a leash. The stairs part is a significant issue in a three story house!

He wants to sniff Rosie and Teddy as much as possible. This isn't a problem with Rosie -- it took maybe two sniffing episodes and she let him know who was Head Dog. Teddy is a different story; he isn't a skittish cat who runs away, and he also doesn't hiss, swat or bite. He seems to believe he exists on a higher plane: "I'm Theo the Lion and my regal aura should suffice." Today as I am (attempting) to work, all three animals want to be with me, of course. Yesterday I worked in the living room on the laptop, but today I decided to use my desktop in the third floor office. Rosie and Teddy are in the bedroom next to the office. This is how they always spend the day while I am working. Harry has learned how to go upstairs at this point (but not down), so he is up here as well. It's not easy to focus when you have to say "No" and "Stop it" every five seconds! (And waves of "how I miss Sam" intrude.) Fortunately things have settled down at the moment, I just checked and all three are happily sleeping in the bedroom. One step at a time...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

One Beagle +
 One Beagle =
Two Beagles!

Welcome to your forever home, Harry.
PS BNL @ Tanglewood was awesome!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Boo horseracing! Boycot Saratoga!

"When it rains it pours" has been this summer's mantra, although in literal terms we've gone from nonstop rain to nonstop heat & humidity. The cliche works for my life right now, though. lifelong "best" friend's mother passed away on mother had surgery on Monday. (She's doing well.) I resumed my routine yesterday, after sleeping in (til 10) for the first time in weeks. I have some teaching-related tasks that I need to accomplish but it's all very do-able.

We had Sam cremated on Sunday at Breezy Nook Pet Crematory (highly recommended), I created a tribute album on FB, performed the sad task of putting away his "things." He lived life to the fullest, even though he only had eight years. But he is no longer suffering. It is hard to believe that two months ago he was his powerhouse self. He remained vital until about three weeks before he died. His death was peaceful, more so than any of my other pets, but the last couple days were tough. He passed away in the yard, with Bob and I sitting with him. I was petting him.

Bob has been encouraging me to look for the next dog. It doesn't take much pushing of course, as I know I won't wait long, but so far I have not made a major effort. I know it will be a male dog, and about 25 pounds. It is too difficult physically for either of us to get another large dog. I don't think it can be another senior, even though Rosie is a treasure. But Edna died in 1999, Ande in 2010, Sophie in 2012, and now Sam in 2013. Four pets in 3.5 years has tested both of our endurance, and Rosie is 9. So while we don't want a puppy, this dog must be "young enough."

We went to the Troy Pig Out on Saturday (it was HOT), took Rosie with us (she was a big hit), and General Joe's BBQ took second place in ribs and 11th place overall!

This weekend we will head to Samsonville. Seems like forever since we've been there. Tuesday: Barenaked Ladies at Tanglewood!! Can't wait.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sam passed away today. RIP Sam-Sam. What a fine dog you were.

Monday, July 08, 2013

I think you can tell from this photo how ill he is, but you can also tell he is happy. He was riding in his wagon in this picture. Pretty cute, eh?

In other dog-related news, I plucked a tick off Rosie just now. Ugh!!

Added; in gardening news, there is a snake living in the composter.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

My beautiful roses

Sam has always had four favorite things: 1) going for walks; 2) playing fetch with a toy; 3) barking at activity on the street; 4) gobbling down food in his bowl. We've always joked that he is "bipolar Sam;" he's an extremely sensitive dog with very high "ups" and very low "downs." He's either really, really happy, or really, really sad.

Cancer strips away so much, and it was breaking my heart that his favorite of those four, and the one he has still been able to enjoy, was being taken from him too. So I came up with a tentative solution...a wagon! We can pull him along on his regular route in the cemetery, taking him out occasionally so he can sniff around and mark his territory. But the rest of the route he can ride, and he won't get tired out.

I found the nifty wagon above at K-Mart, and risked $85 bucks (because sometimes my bright ideas don't work out so well). Well, this one did! He loves it. The first time, he was a perfect angel -- and experienced one of his high ups that lasted the whole night. We even saw another couple with two dogs, one riding in a stroller, and Sam got to bark at them. The second trip (yesterday), he tried to jump out twice (once successfully), but it was OK. This is making him happy again.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The foliage from the potato I planted died a couple days ago, so I decided to throw it into my compost and dig in the container to see whether there were any potatoes. I didn't expect to find any, and was surprised to discover one attached to the roots -- it was grape-size, and I thought "awww." Surprise turned to shock when I poked around in the dirt...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

It seems I continued my non-posting. It's hotter than h-ll tonight, and as a result, my sleep expectations are low. And so, I write. Bob managed to put an A/C in the kitchen today, otherwise it would be more beastly than it is. It really isn't a good idea for him to do this, as it pushed his lifting restrictions and heaven knows he doesn't need any more problems that lead to yet another surgery.

He's been helping Sam too, also pushing the lifting restrictions -- although luckily Sam is still pretty agile. Sam has cancer, his prognosis isn't good, and the last three weeks have been a worry-filled blur punctuated by four vet visits. But tonight I am happy because I got Sam to eat.

I finished all my planting. We had too much rain and the nights were cold, not good for tomato plants and seed sprouting. Then we plunged into a heat wave, which is where we are now. My remaining gardening task is fencing and mulching, which I have to get done before the critters discover the seedlings.

Classes are going well. I have more to write on so many subjects but I will leave it for some other day, perhaps even tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I've been remiss in writing here. I've been "summer busy," but I've had no absence of things to write about: I went to Animal Advocacy Day on June 4 (it was awesome), held the first webinar for my class on June 5 (met expectations), planted a ton of flowers & vegetables (still have more to go, as rain interrupted the plan), got my other class ready for access (although it doesn't start until June 24).

This horrifyingly sad incident took place, generating a flurry of heated dialogue on FB, raising some "thinky" questions in me about topics such as forgiveness and moral obligation. Writing about them here in my little corner (rather than in contentious FB) has been in my mind, but I doubt I will get to it. Not just due to being "summer busy," but because I am preoccupied. Sam is quite sick, I will very likely write more about that, but not right at this moment. Please have a good thought for him, though.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

First FTF class for the blended learning summer course was last night, and it went well. Technical glitches are not unexpected, so I’m not surprised that I couldn’t show the webinar link in class last night. What I didn’t expect was for Java to be the barrier, I thought I might have trouble with camera or sound, but would be able to show chat at least.

Not that I don’t know the classroom machines have protection so faculty and students can’t install programs. I know that, which is why I told classroom tech support weeks ago what I planned to do last night so they could have the PC ready.

I reported it to them today so they could do the upgrade by July 10 and they told me to get there really early to test it in advance (I guess in their opinion 30 minutes wasn't enough time yesterday) and then suggested I bring my own laptop because that would probably work better! My contact in that office is nice ‘n’ all, but "Are you kidding me?"

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I’m always seeking to try new techniques in the classroom. I want to engage students so they are not dozing off, texting, or blowing off class entirely. The office that focuses on teaching improvement sends a lot of email invitations to workshops and webinars that showcase innovative strategies. I toyed with the idea of applying for one of their incentives late last fall, and if chosen that would have meant “flipping my classroom.” After thinking about it, I decided not to bother. The incentive was an ipad (which I didn’t care about), but more influential, I didn’t want to make the afternoon section of my foundations class different from the evening section, the way I had when I piloted the hybrid class design in 2008.

I was still curious about the idea of “flipping my classroom,” though, so I signed up to watch a real-time streaming video of a panel discussing their experiences. It convinced me I had made the right decision, as I do not care for one of the required aspects of “flipping my classroom.” Students complete a multiple choice quiz on the reading before class, during class they complete a discussion activity or case study in teams, then they take the same quiz again, after class. The quizzes are designed to be difficult, so that students don’t do well the first time they take them.

I could envision 100 angry emails after every quiz, with students disputing the outcome or demanding a re-do. No thanks!

What I like about the model is that all lecture, reading, slideshows are completed outside of the classroom, and that students use almost all class time to work on a case study, project or discussion. The in-class activities have to be appropriately designed; they have to be straightforward, so all teams can work on the same thing. Reportedly, students love the in-class dynamics – provided there are no slackers on the team (for some reason recommends team size is 7+, a number I consider to be unwieldy).

I’m using both ideas in the blended class. (Except not teams of seven; teams of five.) No time will be spent on chalk & talk, or at least very little time will be. And the webinars will always have the same format and goal: students come prepared with ideas, discuss them within team, share them with all class.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I’ve written that I teach undergraduates. My last time teaching graduate classes was in 2004 and 2005, when I took over the now-discontinued Urban Education program. It consisted of three undergraduate courses for the Urban Ed minor, and two graduate courses for the certificate in Urban Ed. Aside from those two courses, before he retired, I occasionally substituted for a faculty member in his classes for my department.

So I’m thrilled to have gotten the blended grad class summer assignment. It’s not that I don’t enjoy teaching undergrads. I do, very much. But as the distance between my age and being a young person increases, the challenge is to be sure that distance isn’t reflected in my relationship with students. It isn’t always easy. Every semester more students bring devices – laptops, tablets, smartphones (cell phone saturation has been 100% for a while) – into the classroom, and there seems to be no etiquette regarding texting and social networking. Not to suggest that this behavior is absent among elders, I notice it in faculty meetings as well. But we know we should be paying attention and that it violates a social norm. For undergraduate students, it is the social norm.

The solution is not banning devices, policing the room, or making useless exhortations (not that all three approaches aren’t tempting). The question is how to bring them into class in a productive and meaningful way.

Monday, May 20, 2013

We watched Cloud Atlas on Saturday night. There's not a lot to say about it that isn't a spoiler. It has a lot of characters in six different time lines, and the theme is reincarnation, with some characters always being good, others always being good, and only one, Tom Hanks; character, showing growth, starting out bad and ending good. It was very long, nearly three hours -- too long. Hey film editors! Learn to cut. Otherwise, it was interesting and kept my interest.
The other extreme from my last post. RIP St. Patrick's.
I am done with Spring 2013 grades! Just have to let them "simmer" overnight, and tomorrow I'll enter them. YAY!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What an interesting story! I can't believe I didn't know about this museum before. I am definitely going for a visit this summer.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The cool night temps are causing spring flowers to last. What a year for lilacs!
The only annuals at this point (good thing as I had to bring the pot inside at night this week), a gift from the church for teaching faith formation this past AY.
I can't resist taking pictures of the lilac bush, they are usually such fleeting flowers.

Since 2009, I have been responsible for cutting the grass inside the fence. I took it over when Bob was sick, and although he could have resumed doing it in 2011, I discovered that I love weed whacking (my method of choice). But for years, we have had "a guy" mow the lawn outside of the fence. He did a marvelous job with that, yard clean up (this does not mean "poop patrol," which has always been my duty, but leaves) and other small landscaping projects.

Early this spring, he called to tell me good news for him, but bad news for us: he got a better job, and so is giving up his landscape business! He is nearly impossible to replace, and the grass will soon be up to my knees. My little weed whacker is not up to the task -- the charge doesn't last long enough even with two batteries, and it is hardly heavy duty. So, Bob bought another battery operated weed whacker -- a major Ryobi. I hope I like it as much as my trusty Black & Decker.

Added: I love his column.

Soon I will be able to add to those annuals -- I am 80-100 percent done with evaluations for my spring classes, and the deadline isn't until Tuesday night!

One point of aggravation, nothing to do with spring classes: The bookstore informed me that the book I created (the publisher pitched me to do this, basically it's compiling a reader of various articles, like a course pack but in a nice POD print book and ebook format) isn't in stock yet!! I was told to have it ready by the end of March if I wanted it available for summer session, and I held up my end of the deal. 

This is a problem, as I want the reading done by the first FTF class -- and I am afraid students will discover it isn't in stock, and just plan on buying it when they come to campus that day.

I don't have time to go to campus to put a copy on reserve so students would have (inconvenient) access, and the job of scanning each page individually from the glass was daunting. So, I grabbed my scissors, cut the first reading out of one of the print proofs they sent me so I could use the feeder, and scanned it into PDF.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Today's dilemma: Consumed with deadline calculations (grades are due Tuesday 5/21 @ 11:59 PM). 93 students this spring, all work is in except one paper for 28 students (due tonight), amount of "stuff" left to evaluate ranges from 25-35 percent per class. How much midnight oil do I have to burn to make it? Is there enough time to take a break on this beautiful day to weed whack the yard?

I concluded the answer is "no" to the second question, unless I want the answer to the second one to be "a lot."

Oh well. Maybe tomorrow.

The most difficult aspect of designing this summer course – so far – has to be figuring out the video component. I want to record the FTF sessions, so they can be watched in real time and later. I knew I could use a webcam for this, but didn’t want to use a typical Skype camera, since I want to capture the entire class. This led to an enormous amount of phone calls and emails to a dizzying number of offices. The library has wonderful cameras, but the file has to be converted and uploaded to a server, and the office responsible has banker’s hours and a two-week turn around time. No office on campus seems to have anything more than a cheapie webcam. I was being advised to just use my laptop webcam. I found a great wide screen webcam on amazon, sigh. Late last night I was resigning myself to having to buy it, when the tech guy for the SoE told me his office would buy it! Yay! Problem solved.
Today I am inspired to write about educational philosophy. I took the class I'm teaching this summer in 1998 when I was a doctoral student. At the time it was taught by two different faculty members, neither of whom are at the university any longer; one retired and the other went to greener pastures. One professor focused exclusively on the roots of the field: Greek philosophers, European Renaissance thinkers, with Dewey’s progressivism as the most modern approach covered. The other, and this is the class I took, addressed the subject from a feminist and socio-economic perspective. The Greeks, Europeans and even John Dewey were never mentioned.

When I was preparing to teach this class, I reviewed the syllabi of the faculty who have been teaching it more recently. For many years after the two professors I described moved on, an adjunct from another local college taught the class. He is no longer teaching it, but two other professors are. Two-thirds of the syllabi reflected the “roots” approach, while the remaining syllabus indicated “roots” plus a more modern approach.

I’ve been teaching educational philosophy as one of seven themes in my undergraduate foundations classes for years now. When I first tackled it, I (pretty much) had to learn the subject from scratch, as my own experience was not very helpful – whatever it was we studied, I knew it was not educational philosophy. I now devote about four weeks of the semester to the discipline, and have come to believe that it is the most important of the educational foundations.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Bugs hate me, spring 2013.

I have five incredibly itchy welts on my legs like this one. I got them on Sunday in Samsonville. It's now three days later and they show no sign of dissipating! I have no clue what the bugs were that bit me, as the bites did not hurt when they happened, and they did not itch right away. I was wearing long pants and not doing anything terribly adventurous, just sitting on the deck, with one stroll across the yard.
I was mistaken about the one more post! These vinca vines started coming up on their own a few years ago, germinated by seeds that came from hanging baskets I had on the porch. The vines line the foundation and ancient concrete staircase to the yard. The blooms this spring are fabulous.

Last post, then it's back to the grind! My sister has some really good news. Have I mentioned that beyond being beautiful, I believe her work is a good investment?
I really shouldn't be taking the time to write anything that isn't specifically job related (and even reflecting on the semester is a luxury), but I don't want to lose this.

When I was a teenager or 20-something, I am not sure I recognized the birth of a fad or evolution of cultural practice -- or the more permanent changes in ritual.

For instance, to use something from the 1970s, streaking. In the 1980s, piercings and tatooes. In the 1990s, reality programs and the emergence of roadside and sidewalk shrines to mark the site of tragedy.

Now I see "flash mob" wedding proposals are all the rage. What's up with that? Will this be a short-lived fad (like streaking), longer term than a fad, but likely to die out eventually (like body art and reality TV) or a shift in ritual (like shrines)?
I am up to my eyeballs in evaluation, and the calculation of whether I'll make the deadline (or more likely, with how much time to spare) has started. I managed to get my blended learning class all ready, since it went live yesterday. It makes the deadline question above more difficult.

One inspiration I had was to create a "Sound Off" journal in the class. I named it after the wonderful anonymous call-in forum in the Troy Record, but the in-course variety will not be anonymous. It is a space for me to reflect on the class delivery. Does technology enhance learning or does it get in the way? I've invited students to join me. I will probably post my entries here as well.

This is my first:

During this past academic year, 2012-13, I served on the Online Teaching & Learning Task Force. Since I am an adjunct faculty member, I am not required to perform university service, but the topic interests me a great deal, and I did not want to refuse the invitation from the Provost and CIO.

I am not a big fan of meetings, conferences or task forces. My attitude has been that “I was so done with” spending my time that way when I left SUNY System Administration in 1998. I said arrivederci to keynote speeches accompanied by spring mix salad with mandarin oranges, vinaigrette dressing and chicken a la Marriott.

So I was a touch skeptical when asked to be a member of the OTL Task Force. We were given a short time frame; our first meeting was in November 2012, and after several interim deadlines, the final report was due in April 2013.

I think about educational technology a lot already, and have for a long time. I was an early adopter; I started teaching online in 2000, after taking two experimental classes that relied heavily on new delivery methods as a doctoral student in the mid-1990s. But the OTL Task Force caused me to think about it 24/7, and to discuss it extensively with members of the task force, other faculty, and students.

The response rate to the student survey was 12 percent; this was not as high as we had hoped, but it still is a lot of students, and the comments in particular are a rich data source. Surprisingly, 80 percent of students reported needing no technical support for their fully online, blended and web-enhanced courses. (This contrasts with the wishes of the faculty, who report needing help desk availability on weekends and during the evening.)

Access to grades is something all students want. Undergraduate students want lecture capture, and graduate students want access to the Blackboard site for a class after the semester is over.

The OTL Task Force was a good experience for me. I gained some inspiration and insight that I hope will benefit this class. Of course I’ve already encountered one or two roadblocks (chiefly involving the logistics of recording and uploading video captured during the face-to-face classes).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Three comments about this story:

1) They lied -- I see steel
2) I also see the face
3) It's not coming down without a fight

Headed to S'ville for Mother's Day weekend.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The last one is the potato. Moved it to this container as soon as it was warm enough. Will container potatoes work or will I have to move it to the garden? (Root vegetables don't do well in the Castleton garden). At least it has impressive foliage!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Had my last classes for the semester on Tuesday, and now I'm deep in the weeds of developing one of my summer classes, which will go live on May 14 (and officially starts May 28). It's almost ready. Tomorrow and next week will be devoted to evaluation of spring students. Grades are due May 21.

I've received some significant push back from a handful of students about essay grades. They want extra points for misunderstanding the guidelines or believing the guidelines to be recommendations instead of requirements.

This is the grade distribution for this batch of essays. It is very difficult to see why special consideration is justified; I mean, 32 students understood.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Wow, is this picture-perfect weather, or what?

I think I finally figured out the droid (sort of). At least I managed to set up all of my email accounts, facebook, kindle and blackboard. And install memory, transfer videos, put on a protective skin, and a case. It's quite a learning curve from the blackberry.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Toleration class ended last night, and foundations ends Tuesday. Then grades are due May 21 and Spring 2013 comes to an end. Last night, I did my best to "motivate" (assuming the stick approach works, I've nothing left in my toolbox at this point) students to put more effort into writing the final paper.

I've been with SUNY (as an employee) for 25 years, and teaching at UA for 13. If you include my time as a student, SUNY has been a part of my life since 1978, minus five years in the mid-1980s.

It's hard to finish up this Spring's high priority tasks, when my imagination is already focusing on my blended learning class, which starts officially on May 28, but becomes accessible May 14.

And of course there is the glorious weather calling me -- I think I will fire up the weed whacker this afternoon for the first time this year. I should plant the potatoes too (which are now vying for second place to my annual tomacchio tomatoes in the Little Shop of Horrors competition).

And, of course, the remnants of my cold conspire to make justifying procrastination easy on those allegedly high priority tasks...

Added: I made a faculty webpage.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I had a sore throat on Friday. It turned into a sinus infection by Sunday. I felt lousy, but managed to get a lot of work done. I cut myself (some) slack on this semester's duties, and focused on something inspiring, development of this summer's blended learning philosophy class.

I'm feeling somewhat better today, but I decided not to push it, so I canceled my classes and designed online activities for them instead.

The big news is that I just received Shop Rite home delivery. It will be the first of many! Flawless. They even gave me a bouquet of flowers! OMG I may never go to the supermarket again.

Also, I got a Droid, and switched my phone.

If you can bear to look at this, here is the sad state of St. Patrick's right now

Friday, April 26, 2013

Last night Bob stopped at Barcelona while he was waiting for me to finish class. A man was sitting next to him at the bar who was exclaiming about his age (50), in that way people do when they perceive you are considerably younger. Bob's blessed in this way, he appears a decade younger than his actual age (53). He chose not to disabuse the man of the notion.

This led us to talking about age, retirement, etc. Sometimes I wonder how I'll manage to continue teaching for 15 more years, but the alternative, administration, is not more attractive. The problem is that the students keep getting younger (it can't be that I am getting older, LOL)...the challenge is to figure out how to stay relevant, in sync.

The woman who teaches in the same classroom before my afternoon class is teaching a writing-intensive course. We've chatted a few times about the decline in students' writing and critical thinking skills. I'm generally more of an optimist, but then my classes aren't writing intensive. They aren't absent writing requirements either, though, and on Thursday, with this semester's performance on my mind, I mentioned SED's proposal to her.

We are in agreement that it's a good idea, and she said the proposed requirement -- four pages using four sources -- is what her students are up to right now, and they grouse about it. She also said she'd attended some forum with corporate employers who shared that they refuse to hire recent graduates because they are so lacking. Tough message in an economy that already is not friendly to the inexperienced.

On the other hand, Bob is having a hard time finding experienced  architects and engineers to hire. Really illustrates what I've anecdotally heard, that there is a shortage of candidates for skilled jobs.

I've been thinking that I have to make an effort to change some of the requirements in my classes, to intervene sooner and teach more about writing. The timing is good, since with the creation of the new reader, I will have to transform some of the curriculum and assignments.
I missed this in the student newspaper (which doesn't have a great website and I never bother with the paper version), but here it is from the TU. What bad publicity!

I will have to pick up a paper copy on Tuesday so I can read the original story. I'm shocked they named one student involved, I thought that sort of information was confidential.

As I've written here many times before, I do everything I can, but I'm sure a few still slip through occasionally. I change assignments as much as possible every semester, keep past semester's assignments for comparison, stress the importance of ethical behavior to students, and if that's not enough, try to scare the daylights out of them with colorful tales of students I've caught in the past. But, it's not possible to police whether a friend is logging on to the class Blackboard webpage and doing the work.

I haven't discovered any instances since last spring, but this semester, if students in my classes are paying someone to do the work, they should demand a refund. (LOL.)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Waiting for Bob to pick me up on campus so we can go to Cafe Capriccio. (Heavenly.) Scholarly writing may be sub-par this semester, but classroom discussion is very lively. Something I have tried is asking them to do "free writes" on various prompts. I time them for two or five minutes. I ask them to share with class afterwards, and have been surprised by the number of students who volunteer. It works really well!

I am going to try online grocery shopping. Shop Rite has it, and my hair stylist (and friend) raved about it last night. He said he has ordered twice and it was flawless; he says he may never go to the store again. I'm psyched!! Stay tuned.
I got my haircut yesterday, and while I was waiting, I read the newspaper. I've written before that I stopped receiving a daily paper in February 2011 (after being a lifelong subscriber). I expected to miss it, anticipated the loss of my morning routine -- but after a very short time, found I didn't miss it one whit.

I still read many articles from the news, of course. It's just that now I read them online. Rather than as a morning coffee companion, I read in brief intervals throughout the day. Actually reading the hard copy has become an unfamiliar experience. Another thing I notice is that my reading patterns are different online than they are in the "paper." Admittedly, this is probably the biggest loss: in the paper I would read stories that I either miss or skip on the website.

This is one example. I saw the headline, but didn't immediately "click" it as I was busy working. When I was perusing the dead tree version, it was a top headline, I remembered it, and I'm glad I read it. I want to use it in class next week. PLEASE, SED! Adopt this!! Maybe it will result in no more grade distributions like the one I wrote about yesterday.

This isn't really another example...I did read the story online, which made me sick. The "perp" better not cross my path. What a shameful thing for campus to be associated with. Here's hoping they catch this monster pronto.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Here is the grading distribtion for an essay I just evaluated in one of my classes. Not at all happy with student writing this semester.

Monday, April 22, 2013

I've been busy keeping myself from falling behind in grading so that I can spend time on course development for summer and fall. So far, so good. It hasn't been easy to avoid distraction given what's been going on in the news, but on Friday I evaluated all the essays I had pending, and today I managed to create a reader and e-reader for fall.

Speaking of essays, there have been a very large number this semester that aren't very good. I don't notice anything particularly different in student behavior or demeanor this spring, but in all classes, the writing just hasn't been meeting expectations. Why don't students read the guidelines?

We spent a second weekend in a row in Samsonville, something we don't usually do this time of year, but Bob's brother is turning 50 next week, and he had a dinner at Carmine's on Saturday. It was allegedly a surprise party, but he wasn't surprised.

We drove to Poughkeepsie from Samsonville, and took Metro-North to Grand Central.  I used to take the commuter train to NYC from Brewster when we lived there in the 1980s, but I had not been on Metro-North since then. What a sensory experience! It brought back a lot of memories -- most not pleasant ones. When I go to NYC now, I take Amtrak from Rensselaer. Although I prefer Grand Central (Amtrak goes to Penn), Amtrak is way better: nicer, cleaner, faster, smoother ride. Smells better too!

Anyway, it was a nice party and we had a good time, chem toilet "fragrance" on the train or not.