oxymoron67: (Default)
1. The colleague who wants to do a presentation with me at the IT conference in December stopped by my office today.

We discussed it, and came to the conclusion that a "Best Practices" was the best bet.

I have said before (and I mean it) that I'm not a fan of the phrase "Best Practices", mostly because what works for me at my institution with the constraints I have may not work well elsewhere.

So, while I'll call it "Best Practices," I'm thinking that it's more of a "Here's what works for me, maybe you can adapt it. Hey, you might even have suggestions for me. That would be cool" presentation.

Anyway, we'll likely be talking about how we incorporate sound technology into classes.

2. The professor who is teaching Voice and Diction this summer also dropped by today. We work well together because we're sounding boards for one another's ideas. For instance, my News Project assignment is based on something she does; and she includes many more recordings in her class.

She discovered something that I've been saying: students who record their recitations do better than those who recite in front of class.

Which isn't to say that our students SHOULDN'T do presentations in front of class. It;s just that there should be a mix of activities.

She wants to work with Storycorps so we discussed that. In the Fall, she will likely be teaching a half-online, half-class Intro to Communication Studies course, and she's looking for activities.

These conversations got me thinking. I may change a few things in the Fall. From what I have seen, many of my students have trouble interpreting charts and graphs.

Actually that;s not true. They seem to always understand the basics of them, but they can't EXPLAIN them.

I may add that (and videotape it) as one of my weekly recordings.

Advertising. I want to work with advertising, but I can;t really figure out how. Given all the other work I have them do, I don't think it makes sense to make them do a video based ad... those coming with a "radio" ad might work.
oxymoron67: (roll eye)
Last week, the powers-that-be sent out a call for papers for the next IT conference. Here is the theme:

Instructional/Information Technology in (my university) : Confirmations and Speculations


Seriously? Seriously?

We might as well just call the conference "Computers! Yay!"

I mean, I can easily whip together a "Best Practices" presentation for this, and, in fact, I probably will, since the person I presented with at the conference in March wants to team up again.

I think, for us, best practices is the way to go. Best practices in including audio. That will make us stand out. I can talk abut my News Project and The States Project. Heck, I can even talk about my weekly recordings, in terms of length and vocabulary choice as well as in terms of cultural importance, as I should include an American cultural component in my class.

Easy. Pretty much done.

My issue with this theme is that it feels too broad. Granted, it is a University-wide, pan-disciplinary conference, so, by its nature, it has to be broad, but this just feels like someone said, "To Hell with it, just tell them to put together any old thing,"

Do you know what kind of conference would be fun? Rather than focus on what works, someone, somewhere should have a "Oh, Dear Lord, this totally bombed" conference. We could discuss projects that crashed and burned and how we can (or cannot) salvage them.

Frequently, there is something constructive in failure. I could talk about the first time I tried to teach powerpoint or the first time I had my students summarize stories on Storycorps. Total failures. Have I ever told those stories?

Honestly, I still haven't quite figured out the best use for Storycorps in my classroom.

But a Crash and Burn themed Conference could be loads of fun.
oxymoron67: (Default)
I get an e-mail on Saturday, letting me know that my proposal for The Clasp 2011 Colloquium was accepted ad that I (and the professor I am presenting with) had been shoe-horned onto a panel with two other people.

We're all going to be talking about technology and communication skills.

Understand that I'm not thrilled about being forced onto a panel at this conference because of the last time I presented at this conference... oh, here is the quote:

What I wasn't prepared for was the subject matter of the person who directly preceded me. She is an instructor in our cooperative education area-- she helps run the internship program. I expected the her students' projects would be about interviewing skills.

I was wrong.

All the ones she chose were on clinical depression. So I had to follow a presentation on clinical depression set to Mad World. (She brought in a TV and had a tape.)

Imagine...
(Music)
I think it's kind of funny
I think it's kind of sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had

And now, let's all welcome Sean!

God.


On the other hand, I can't imagine THAT happening again.

I'm planning on talking about the news project and the states project very briefly and showing them one or two of the better states projects. This means that they don't get to see the one on South Dakota which talks about the Sucks Indians -or- the one about Vermont that discusses the Grand Canyon.

I keep those gems for myself.

Originally, I was going to throw a diva fit and just refuse to do it. But, you know, it's another line on the CV; I already have what I'm going to do outlined, so it's not taking that much work and it;s a day away from work.
oxymoron67: (Default)
A friend has just been accepted to present a paper at a conference.

This brought up two memories, one of which I'll share now.

Set your wayback machines to 1999. )
oxymoron67: (Default)
I’ve been reading various articles for the Vision Summit, which is happening this Thursday and Friday. These articles deal with globalization, reforming education and sustainability. All three are important concerns.

Long reaction to seven articles that I read. )
oxymoron67: (Default)
Here is the website for it.

One thing I'm going to push for: more speaking skills!

The reality is, here at LaGuardia, when we talk about communication skills, the focus is usually on writing. Given our student population, this isn't all that surprising.

BUT

We churn out students who may be able to put together a resume or an essay, but if you ask them a question in class or expect them to give a speech or even successfully navigate an interview, well, you're shit out of luck.

Well, actually, the students are the ones in trouble.

Given that almost 60% of our student population is foreign born (and most of the rest are their kids), and that we have over 100 different first languages spoken here, English speaking skills SHOULD be a focus. But they aren't. And since the courses aren't required, the students who need the most help won't take a speech course for fear that he or she won't do well.

I'll probably be ignored, but it has to be said.
oxymoron67: (Default)
I've mentioned before that I love conferences. You meet people interested in the same topics as you, who face the same frustrations, and, if it's a good conference, lots of food and copious alcohol are involved.

Every conference has a theme. For example, the conference I presented at last month, Northeast Connect, the theme was "Leading and Inspiring Change for Successful Learning!"

Translation from Academic-speak to normal English? "Our colleagues can barely turn on their computers, but, since they have tenure, we can't force them to learn any technology. How so we change their minds or do we just have to wait until they retire?"

You can learn a lot from conference themes. Here are a few more.

CALICO (Computer Assisted Language Instruction COnsortium) 2009:

Language Learning in the Era of Ubiquitous Computing

Translation: "Shit! Our students are better with technology than we are!"

IALLT (International Association of Language Learning Technology):

Language Learning GPS: Navigating the World of Technology

Translation: "We all use Blackboard and NPR. Now what?"

Sometimes, though, they're just lazy.

TESOL (Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages)

Uncharted Mountains, Forging New Pathways

Translation: "We couldn't really come up with anything, but we're meeting in Denver, so we'll go with a mountain/pioneer metaphor."
oxymoron67: (Default)
I got past the first of the three or four committee meetings for tenure. (I think it's three committees and then a review from the President's Office.)

The first committee was the departmental personnel and budget committee. I sailed through that since, out of the five members, three work closely with me and the other two know me fairly well.

Their only complaint? That once I get tenure, I won't be as productive. Duh. Isn't that what tenure is about? You're hyperproductive for five to seven years then you can pick and choose your projects. In their defense... well, sort of... five (or six) people from our department are up for tenure this year, so the department's overall academic output will suffer.

But this is tenure in a nutshell. If they want consistent output, they have to adjust how tenure is awarded, which would anger the people who have been at the college since the dawn of time and who haven't produced anything worthwhile since the Watergate Era.

In my case, I'm still planning on going to conferences and doing committee work, I'm just going to be more choosy.

For instance, one of the regional organizations I belong to put out a call for papers, and I submitted a proposal about research and digital storytelling (based on last year's final projects for my Voice and Diction class). Well, I got an e-mail today saying that they wanted me to do a poster session.

Yuck.

I hate poster sessions. For one, I have no artistic talent whatsoever; for another, they give me high school science fair flashbacks.
Plus the attitude of people at poster sessions is different. If someone comes to your presentation, he or she is interested in what you're doing. At a poster session, people just sort of meander. It's more difficult to establish a dialogue with people, in my experience.

For another thing, I think poster sessions require more work than a standard presentation. You have to set up the damned poster: produce illustrations (even if they're screenshots, you have to decide which ones to take), figure out how to assemble them on your poster board then add captions.

This isn't giving an academic presentation, it's a freaking arts and crafts project.

Besides, this is an organization about technology and language learning. Surely a technology conference would have moved beyond the low tech poster session.

So I turned them down.

Since the conference was in Boston, this does save me money, and makes going to both Tempe and Atlanta in the Spring more likely.
oxymoron67: (hypnobasset)
So, do you want to talk about higher education? )
oxymoron67: (Default)
I've had a busy past few days. On Saturday I attended (and presented at) a language learning and tech conference held at Rutgers. Rutgers' campus is very pretty. I only got lost once. I thought everything was taking place at the language lab, but the event was ACTUALLY being held in the student center. Fortunately the student center is easy to find, as it is pink.

The plenary speaker was a little underwhelming. I can sum up her 45 minute long presentation in two sentences:

1. Learning languages is important!
2. Tech can help!

*sigh*

After that, I attended several interesting sessions, on things like developing spoken language competency exams, microblogging with twitter and the development of a hybrid (75% online) course in French.

Neat stuff, and things I could potentially adapt/learn from for my own job.

My two presentations went well. If there's one thing I can do, it's talk. One was on electronic portfolios, the other an overview of all the different initiatives I'm involved in.

We had a lot of high school teachers at this conference. I loved it, but it led to something I've never done before. After my first presentation, several people came up to me and asked me to sign their certificate of attendance. I wondered why, until I looked at mine over lunch. To maintain a teaching certificate, most states require teachers to do so many hours of training or education per year. Attending an all-day conference is several hours of that. My signature was needed as proof of attendance.


Getting back and forth was easy-- the NJ Transit train dropped me right by campus then I got a bus. However, since the thing started at 9:00, I was on the 7:10 train to NJ, which meant that I was up at 5:00 am to get there -- so I could shower grab some coffee and not feel rushed while waiting for my local train to get me into the city.
oxymoron67: (Default)
Work. )
oxymoron67: (Default)
I love going to conferences. Given the nature of my job -- a tech person in a technophobic department-- I frequently feel very, very isolated at my workplace, but at conferences, I meet other people who have the same issues and we swap ideas and... oh, it's just fun.

Granted, you still get some presenters who read directly from their powerpoint, which is composed of slide after slide of block paragraphs of doom. And they they give you the slides as a handout! Why bother talking? Just hand everything out, say "here it is" and go get a drink.

Anyway.

I sent two proposals to a regional language learning and technology conference. The first concerns keeping a language lab relevant and the second is about our ePortfolio program.

I noticed last June at a conference in Boston and again at conference last Fall, that many language labs were either closing or being scaled back. Mine isn't. We're talking about annexing space to expand. So, I proposed a discussion about how to stay relevant in this age.

After all, the people who want to close the labs have a point: a great deal of the lessons/information that used to stored in the language lab is now available on-line. Why throw resources at a redundancy?

Because it's not redundant. Not if you turn the lab into a place where classes from all disciplines can come to work on language issues. We also let students work on multimedia projects here, such as digital stories or audio interviews (based off NPR's wonderful stuff) or just practicing a speech.

So, that's one proposal. However, at the end of this proposal, I included a phrase I loathe, because I think it's an empty phrase: "best practices." I've always had a problem with "best practices" because what works for you at your institution may not work for me at mine. I can only tell you what I've done and how the administration and my colleagues have been helpful/useless.

The other proposal was on electronic portfolios (ePortfolio). We have one of the most advanced ePortfolio programs in the country. To my knowledge, we're the only college trying to take ePortfolios college wide. ePrtfolio is a hot topic right now, so anything about it gets attention. I've discussed adding audio to ePortfolio, adding video and now I'm (hopefully) going to discuss the joys and pitfalls of taking it college wide.

We'll see.

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