Monday, August 17, 2015

#Agoratry80: My Left Hand

For today's Daily Try (#agoratry80), we're asked to tweet a your back of the hand photo. Since I'm always at the keyboard, I opted for this photo.

This mostly what it appears to be. The ring and watch add details for those who are interested.  One thing less obvious is the little finger, which is permanently bent. I earned that souvenir while attempting, quite foolishly, to ride a child's bike off a ramp in 2001. I flipped over the handlebars and tried to catch with my left hand on the sidewalk. Needless to say, I was not entirely successful.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

More Improvisations: Where is Clippy?

For today's Daily Try (#agoratry69), we're asked to answer the question "Where is Clippy hanging out these days?" and to create an image that shows where Clippy is now.

I imagine Clippy is happily performing street art in Luxembourg.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Value of Modeling When Designing for Student Engagement

I've been a big Dan Meyer fan for some time, and have always appreciated his real-world, participatory approach to learning. His recent post -- Literally Everything I Know About Modeling With Mathematics [SMP 4] --provides links to some of his most salient work in modeling, as well as a general summary of modeling in mathematics education.

Modeling asks students a) to take the world and turn it into mathematical structures, then b) to operate on those mathematical structures, and then c) to take the results of those operations and turn them back into the world. That entire cycle is some of the most challenging, exhilarating, democratic work your students will ever do in mathematics, requiring the best from all of your students, even the ones who dislike mathematics. If traditional textbooks have failed modeling in any one way, it’s that they perform the first and last acts for students, leaving only the most mathematical, most abstract act behind.

In his post, Dan links to one of my favorite modeling examples, Is the Checkout Line a Scam? (the answer is "yes," by the way). In it, he models several things that we can all do to bring the real world into our course design in order to make our content more relevant and the concepts we're teaching more meaningful.

  1. Use interesting examples from the real world -- A big part of fostering student engagement is presenting course content in relevant ways. The best and easiest way to do this is by using meaningful examples from the real world. This not only makes learning concepts relevant -- it also allows participants to make personal connections and applications.
  2. Get participants to think about possibilities and assumptions before the formal concept is introduced -- Contextualization of learning concepts is a critical part of student engagement. Participants want to know why these concepts matter. By sharing models from the real world, and by allowing participants to reflect on and discuss these models before ever introducing our formal learning concepts, we provide a foundation of purpose and interest for our lessons.

  3. Present concepts within the framework of a relevant example instead of sharing them in the abstract and then trying to link the real world to the concept at some later point -- When we lead with relevant, real-world models as opposed to formal concepts, we establish a narrative context for all subsequent information and discussions. It gives us an important anchor point for our explanations.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Improvisation Practice: Today's "Daily Try"

Today's Daily Try from the ADG Agora project:
#agoratry67 Randomly Generate a Luchador Name and Announce Yourself to the World.

As you can see, I went with the Spanish version of my name, Roberto, and was awarded a fabulous luchador handle: El Hijo del Relámpago (Son of Lightening). I'm thinking I should get to work on my mask later this afternoon.

This is really a great, entry-level student creation activity because it requires little to no skill acquisition, it's fun, and it connects users to valuable cultural information.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#NTPoC Unit 3: SNA Artifact Challenge

In Unit 3 of our Power of Connections learning experience, Stacy asked us to map our social networks using the tools she had suggested. Here are some of my "findings."

My Twitter map doesn't show anything surprising. Most of my connections are in the US, with the exception of a small group scattered throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Here is the second map of my Twitter connections and it tells the same story, only in percentages.

My LinkedIn social network is actually much more interesting.

For starters, it is much more diverse than my Twitter network. My connections on LinkedIn have been formed while I was at different companies focused on different parts of the education industry. I have contacts in publishing, educational technology, publishing technologies, content management, Higher Education and learning design. Not surprisingly, while my network is sizable, it is not incredibly interconnected. In other words, few of these people would not be connected in any way without me.

Interestingly, that lack of "connectedness" does not diminish the value of this network, at least in the way that I use it. For me, LinkedIn is about staying connected to multiple industries, and about having access to experts in those industries. It's like a professional reference (a professional Wikipedia). In that context, it continues to serve me extremely well.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

An Early Timeline of My Personal Computers

Stacy Zemke created a great Artifact Challenge for Unit 2 of our Power of Connections learning experience -- Framing Connections Through a Personal Archive.

The task is to make connections with your past by creating either a history of your Web presence or of your personal computing life. I opted for the latter as it says a great deal about the practical or adaptive approach I've taken to personal computing over the years.

You can see pictures of my primary personal computing devices from 1983-2005 on this Pinterest page, and here is a bit more detail on some of the specific machines shown.

Commodore 64 -- My parents gave me this personal computer as a graduation gift when I received my M.A. from Texas Tech in 1983. Until that time I had done all my typing on a Remington manual typewriter and an old IBM Selectric. The Commodore 64 had two joystick ports (you played four-player games by having the other two use the keyboard), a 5 1/4" floppy drive, and hooked into any small TV.  I bought a third-party dot matrix printer that allowed be to change fonts by changing dip switch settings, and used this for much of my coursework at the University of Texas.

Apple IIe -- A friend was selling off some equipment in 1986 and I bought an Apple IIe. This was an eye opener for me as the Commodore had required me to type in commands such as "Load" and "Run" just to access programs. The Apple IIe was my first experience with self-loading programs and something resembling and actual menu.

Apple IIc -- I like my IIe so much I couldn't wait to by a IIc (circa 1988/89). I typed the first chapters of my dissertation on the IIc and my daughter, born in 1987, played Treehouse and other games on it in her early years.

IBM PC -- When I took my first faculty job in 1990, the department issued me an IBM PC with dual floppy drives (3 1/2"). You booted Word Perfect or some other program from a disk on the left drive and stored data on a disk in the right drive. I had used WordPro and other PC-based word processing systems in the past, but this was the point at which I converted to DOS-based Word Perfect for much of the 90s.  I knew all the keystrokes, created my own macros and, in general, couldn't imagine computing getting much better. I finished my dissertation on this machine and also wrote my first article on it.

Macintosh Classic -- My personal life went through some changes beginning in 1997 and, not surprisingly, so did my computing life. I moved to a new teaching position in a new town, and along the way picked up an old Macintosh Classic. While it didn't connect to the Internet (I did all my Internet research and e-mail at the University library during this period), it was amazingly reliable and also provided my introduction to Microsoft Word.

Compaq Armada -- By 1998 my writing projects were increasing rapidly and I wanted something cheap that was also portable. Enter the used Compaq Armada laptop that ran DOS and has Word Perfect installed. It was blazing fast and really familiar. It allowed me to teach at multiple institutions, write on the go, and be extremely productive.

Dell Laptop (2003/4) -- I actually owned a number of desktops and Dell laptops at the university from 1999-2003, but this laptop is memorable because it came with the founding of a startup in Boston and represented a whole new way of thinking about productivity and communication. My wife worked for the company as well as still has hers (that she uses daily!).

Fujitsu Laptop -- The Fujitsu was my first experiment with "tablet" computing and, except for the limited computing power, was an enjoyable little machine. I like taking notes by hand and used One Note with great delight during this time (really!).

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Mashup Report: "MOOCs"

I've been working on a new feature for the Learning Lot and am happy to roll it out today. So here, in the the maiden voyage of The Mashup Report, I present an interview with MOOC visionary and expert, Dr. Simon Lafoon.  Hope you enjoy it.


 [The Mashup Report is compiled by Rob Reynolds and Vicky Woodward]