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.