Posted by: codecalla | October 18, 2015

Trust in the Universe

Recently many events have transpired to cause doubt, confusion, anger, and loss of hope.  How often do we tie our personal identity to the nature of the groups we belong?  When suddenly one of those groups collapses, what can we learn from the experience?

The phrase “Trust in the Universe” came from a standard shared meme, but it was also a phrase for consolation.  Despite the difficulties of the moment, of the age, or beyond, what can we learn from the experience or how can we grow and move beyond it?

How can we empower ourselves to reach out into the vast emptiness and find sustenance?  Many things are beyond our control, but we can learn and grow as people from them.  We still have free will in our responses and choices to grow, rather than stagnate in the deepest darkest sorrows.  I am not speaking of depression, anxiety, or any multitude of illnesses that need treatment, therapy, and you can’t just “choose” to get out of it, but how can we manage the every day perspective or person that we try to be?

Writing allows us to explore, create, and destroy universes at will.  Trust in the Universe.

Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Posted by: codecalla | August 21, 2015

I Adopted a Grandmother

I adopted a grandmother.  She would sit on her porch with a stray cat she adopted, and let the cat sleep inside her house at night, even though she liked dogs better.  I adopted a grandmother.  She would tell stories about the neighborhood back in the day, and the next door neighbor Bob that used to live next door and took great care of his house.  I adopted a grandmother.  She would sweetly suggest to the new male neighbor that his new female neighbors were pretty cute.  I adopted a grandmother.  She would listen when I would venture over to her porch for a brief conversation between classes or training.  I adopted a grandmother.  And she disappeared this week.

I didn’t know her very well, but I had adopted her as part of my daily routine, enjoying our brief conversations and her spritely gossip about neighborhood news.  She was tricked into an elder care facility by someone who said she was going in for tests and would return after a few days.  While she thought she was getting tested, they took her car, moved her stuff out of the house she has lived in all her life, and even took away the stray cat.

I adopted a grandmother that someone threw away.  We’re hoping to get a lawyer involved on her behalf.  She is in full control of her faculties and this is criminal.  I hope that we can fight for her.  I hope she’s not too scared in that foreign place, and I pray that she can return home before they sell it.

There are real life villains.

Posted by: codecalla | June 14, 2015

Andragogy and Technology

Adult learning is the focus of my current studies.  One of the most useful insights I’ve learned is that adults tend to learn more socially.  I think that group assignments can be more effective with older students.  Another aspect of adult learning that I’ve learned is that transformational learning occurs at the pace of the student, not the instructor and that students need to adapt their frames of reference to the learning materials.

The use of technology can be inspiring for students and facilitators alike.  The irony is that technology is used in the place of real, long lasting learning.  Technology should not be a replacement, it should be a tool.  When students tend to rely too much on technology it can create problems.  Technology can ease the collaboration efforts of students, but it can create problems when assignments are not submitted properly due to technical errors.  Technology can also create new assignments that challenge imaginations and incorporate new ideas.  Creating new assignments such as web sites, wikis, and short films can be useful expressions of knowledge.

Posted by: codecalla | May 31, 2015

Film and Literature

One of the coolest things about teaching is that you can try new things. For this fall’s literature course, I’m going to implement a new assignment that relates to the works they read for the course. The academic requirements need to be met are fulfilled through the course readings, quizzes, and two papers, but I want to create a creative assignment that will explore their interpretations of the works.

I would love to have them create a fiction work based on the literature, but some students may struggle. I think I will give an option for a thematic work that is based on the literature or related to the themes in the literature for the subject of their assignment. I will give the assignment at the beginning of the semester, so that they can work on it throughout the semester.

They can create a research “documentary” short film, or create an original work.

My goal is for students to find their voices in ancient literature and feel the human connection, even if it is thousands of years ago.

The technology will be whatever the students have available, including Windows Movie Maker or some other editing software. They could use iMovie or other applications from their phones. We’ll have to discuss copyright, copyright infringement, and the difficulties in keeping the material relevant to their vision of their work. The cameras could be smartphones, video cameras, digital cameras, photo stills, and other visuals, if they want to create art.

Some of the ethical concerns, other than copyright, would be avoiding plagiarism, clear assignment guidelines, and rubrics. The tone of the message may alter with the creator, so freedom of speech and political correctness will have to be discussed. Time constraints and the commitment to the course should be considered in relation to their workloads. I may have to adjust some reading schedules or reevaluate how the course will progress through the sixteen week semester. The goal is creative engagement with students.

Posted by: codecalla | May 24, 2015

Films for Class

I think incorporating filmmaking into composition and literature courses could be interesting.  Students have access to video cameras, digital cameras, smart phones, and webcams.  As an engaging project, the film should be designed for a short assignment, or perhaps an entire term assignment.  Some students may excel at creating films more than others, but clear guidelines and workshops should help with the project.  Group projects are difficult because some students may not fulfill their objectives for the group.  Grading the students on their participation and having peer evaluation could help promote collaboration.  Devoting some time to class for the project could help the students connect and stay on task.

The films could be about their paper topics, the research they have conducted, or its applications to everyday life.  The point of education is to create a connection between knowledge and the learner.  The student is the focus of the learning process.  Composition essays may seem unpleasant to write, but creating a visual project based on the subject could be exciting and interesting.  Most students are used to the process of filming themselves.  Directing their projects with photos, video, and real life applications could achieve new rhetorical goals.

Assessment for the videos should be based on the creativity, organization, research, and development of the project.  These assessments should be peer based, as well as instructor based.  The grades should reflect attention to detail, audience, and presentation.  Adapting their message for different mediums is an important lesson for students in today’s highly advanced technical society.

Posted by: codecalla | May 7, 2015

Final Presentations

Today was the final exam slot for my literature class. Students were asked to present research related to the course materials or subjects inspired by the course materials on the final day. Overall, the presentations were informative, interesting, and a good experience. Most students used PowerPoints, which quite a few instructors use to deliver information; however, one student used Prezi to present about Greek Art.

Prezi presentations are more dynamic than linear based PowerPoints because they follow mapping of ideas (p. 203). The value of a Prezi presentation is that it can be collaborative, interactive, and fascinating to follow. Collaboration is one area that students often struggle with, especially as collaboration may not be equal. Group assignments are problematic in delivery, but Prezi is easy to use and projects are “easily shared, sent, and accessed” (p. 203). Prezis have movement, which can be lacking in PowerPoint presentations.

The presentations today were informal. In a formal presentation grade for a course, the instructor should outline the specific requirements and present training opportunities for the students in using the new technology (p. 205-208). When tools are new to the users, is it vital for instructors to play around with the features personally and introduce the technology thoughtfully (p. 208). It can be difficult to navigate without practice. I suggested that students could use the Prezi format for their presentations, but it was only a suggestion.   They shared their presentations in a discussion board prior to presenting in class. In future classes, Prezi training may be an offering prior to projects.

References

Chicioreanu, T. D. (2010). An awesome online presentation tool – Prezi. Petroleum – Gas University Of Ploiesti Bulletin, Educational Sciences Series, 62(1A), 202-209.

Posted by: codecalla | May 4, 2015

Academic Writing

As a composition professor, some of the problems that I face include helping students understand just how to formulate clear ideas using evidence and facts to support the points they are trying to communicate. It is not merely throwing words at a page and hoping they will stick. Unfortunately, sometimes the students want to communicate a message that is clearly targeted toward a specific group of people and does not use academic standards within the essay. Religious studies are an important part of divinities studies and the humanities– history, sociology, psychology, among others. It can be a struggle to honor a student’s religious beliefs, but train them to write for an academic audience. Religious works may not be appropriate depending upon how they are used in the essay. Sometimes, attempts to raise awareness of its difficulty and appropriateness are viewed suspiciously. Academic writing requires careful attention to detail, support, evidence and citation.

How can we support their beliefs, but train them to be more aware of the academic standards and audience? For a world that is filled with many people of many faiths, tolerance should be fostered. Students must learn to widen their horizons, as they also widen those of their classmates and instructors. It is sometimes difficult to explain academic practices for those who wish to speak without listening. Communication requires participation. We need more listeners. It is disheartening when communication fails. We should work together to try to communicate, each listening to the messages received. When someone has a specific message, they start ignoring the context of the situation.

Posted by: codecalla | April 26, 2015

The Best Choice

A new technology that I would like to implement in class would be the use of iMovie.  I like the idea of trying to document ideas and use visual media to explain complex subjects.  The difficulty of using the movie application is minimized, as the images are easy to adapt for the film, and the narration and sound can be recorded easily.  The largest constraint is the aspect of the time commitment to creating individual movies.  Another aspect, using film as a teaching media, is to identify how long would the best short video clip be to encompass the subject and capture the audience’s attention.

Since I teach literature, reading passages of the works or discussing the life or philosophy behind the works would be exciting, as long as I prepared it well in advance.  Creating a specific script, and checking it for clear, audible reading, relevance, and resonance would be important.  The reading should not be monotone, nor should it be difficult to understand.  Practice through creating test films could help the situation.

On the other hand, creating an assignment where the students are allowed to create their own iMovies, especially in a class that has tablets, would be absolutely exciting.  A creative assignment that allows students to bring their own gifts to the learning material may be more beneficial and far reaching than instructor-crafted ones.

Posted by: codecalla | April 26, 2015

Professional Development

Professional development as a professor is one of the trickier aspects of teaching.  Colleges frequently have mini-sessions to train professors about specific programs, techniques, or teaching strategies.  Any program changes also require a professor to adhere to the different standards in accordance with accreditation.  Professional development opportunities depend on the individual and what they seek to accomplish in their career, but additionally what is inherently useful to bring to their individual classrooms.

Cultural practices and teaching techniques should be studied.  Professional training in understanding how students from other cultures approach topics and learning could be invaluable for reaching the diverse student population.  Often, the professor must mitigate the difficulty in students’ understandings and apprise them of additional support at the college.  It can be difficult to track the needs of many students, but it can be rewarding to take a little time before diving into course material to talk informally with the students.  The informality of it allows students to reach out more easily if they need assistance later.

Adjunct faculty have training conferences, but their situation is problematic because often their attention is divided between several schools.  Students have to rely on the passion and the commitment of the adjunct professor to assist them, rather than having a full time advocate with solid campus connections.  Advisors and counselors make up a larger percentage of staff at colleges now, in part to take care of the empty space left by lacking full time professors.  Full time professors have students in their charge, who advise them on academic choices and prompt them in their careers, sometimes giving references letters or other immeasurable support.  Students feel more of a connection with their professors, perhaps, because they have had more face time with them.  Professional development opportunities train adjuncts in advising, teaching, and networking, but they have limited means and time.

Posted by: codecalla | March 22, 2015

Teaching with Technology

While teaching at a community college, different technologies are used to make my job easier, but sometimes technology failures cause more problems than technology seems to be worth.  One of the basic technologies is the course website which allows students to maintain knowledge of their grades, access assignments, and communicate with me.  Most of the places I teach require the use of the course website and postings of grades, which only the students can access.  Problems can occur when the course website goes down and students cannot access the site.  Usually such inconveniences are infrequent, but occasionally they cause students to have to resubmit their assignments.  I remind students they should always save their work in at least three different mediums, because computers, flash drives, and websites fail far too often to trust.  Sometimes they leave it to chance, and the results are unpleasant.  Technology failures have driven students to course failure, tears, and frustration.

Another technology that we use frequently would be overhead projectors that are linked to the computers, laptops, or a dvd player.  It’s helpful to access the equipment for presentations, lectures, and entertainment.  For my humanities course, I have shown documentaries, films, and short clips so that students have a visual understanding of the material.  The colleges offer training in using different presentation formats including Prezi and PowerPoint.  Another piece of technology that is available is the use of the iPad.  One university is working to upgrade classrooms to use iPads in the classroom instead of desktop computers.  This university offers training sessions for faculty to incorporate the iPads into class assignments and discussions.  Textbooks are available through digital means, and an iPad is a wonderful tool to access texts.  Tablets have different access points than laptops, but if classrooms have the WiFi capability this allows interactive collaboration without computer labs.  Some colleges do not have enough computer lab space for classrooms, because computer labs are in high demand.  One drawback is that overhead projectors may cause some difficulty in understanding the material, especially if students have a learning disability.  Faculty must ensure that all students have equal access to education in order to comply with the ADA (Higher Education).

Within the course we use wikis, sometimes as a class collaboration and sometimes to create an entertaining presentation of information.  I have been considering how to use them with argument essays or for other major essays.  Collecting information, cataloging, and ranking the quality of the research can be difficult.  A wiki page could be helpful if students use it to evaluate information or to present information.  Another course tool we use is an online journal, the journal is similar to a blog, but it is personal for the student.  It can be very effective to help students to connect with material and to keep track of the information that they are processing.  I haven’t used blogs in the course yet, but they are available if I choose to enable them.  Blogs can be useful if the responses are targeted to relate to the course material or topics that interest the students.  Diversity of students and their learning styles could impact their ability to navigate technology in the classroom.  “But, a deep awareness of diverse learning styles requires a commitment to the belief that all students can be successful learners” (Guild, 2001).

References

Guild, Pat Burke.  (2001).  Diversity, learning and culture.  Retrieved 22 March, 2015 from http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/strategies/topics/Learning%20Styles/diversity.html

Higher Education Compliance Alliance. (n.d.). Americans with Disabilities Act & Section 504. Retrieved from http://www.higheredcompliance.org/resources/disabilities-accommodations.html

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