ED 664 Learning Project Log

My reflections on my Learning Project.

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Monday, December 03, 2001
It's been a while since I entered data into the log. I think I'm trying to do to much. Anyway, quick summary of the past month or so in travelogue format:

  • I've checked out both Manila and Web Crossing software. Geez, what a difference between the two. Both focus on discussion boards, although Web Crossing is by far the superior product. Of course, it's pricier also. The thirty day free trials of each were useful.

  • I've checked out ASPForums and tried that on my site. It's nice as a Forum, but I didn't see an easy way to convert the code so that each student could have an independent slot.

  • I've tried the FrontPage database access wizards. It still was not easy to convert the code. However, this is most promising for a short term solution as it is easy to create a form for students to fill in and then put it in a database so that it can be analyzed using access. It is a one-way method for the students to give me feedback. To return to them, I have to reply to their messages and then print them out. However, it's the easiest method.

  • I've tried FrontPage discussion groups. This is nice in that I can carry on a discussion with the students, as we have done in Linklet.net, but the problem is that individual communications requires a separate subweb for each student. That's a problem.

  • I've downloaded GenericDB and am working with that. This looks like it is the most promissing of the technologies if I can just design a good database. However, that is easier said than done.

  • I've been working with Access and I'm learning far more about databases than I ever thought possible.

  • I've joined the Middle-L list, which is focused on learning in the Middle school. It's just as I remembered it--lots of noise with some nuggets of gold.

  • I've also joined a beginners Visual Basic list to get some ideas on software. There is really good stuff there, but I don't feel that I am far enough along to interact with them.

  • I discussed the project with Glenn, who is interested in the end result as he has his students do some of their writing in Word. However, he has to go into each directory and open their document to read it and comment on it. If it could be changed so he could do it online, it would life easier.

    So, what does it all mean? I've focused mostly on the technical aspects of the project, but I'm seeing a benefit just from what I've done with the students so far. They are writing information to me that (I think) would be hard to get from them in person. For example, they are happy to tell me how their partners are working, such as when we did the partner quiz.

    I'm also learning more about how I learn software. Mostly, I get a few books, grab the software, and dink around. The problem I've run into is that the scope is so large that it's a very inefficient way. I find out what the software can do by looking at other software. (I have learned a tremendous amount about how to create ODBE connections, which is something I was unable to do before I started this, and I can do it using DSN-less, system DSN, or global.asa application.) So, I've asked around at school and nobody really knows Access and nobody uses ASP pages. Our one person who did program in Access is gone to Seattle. Oh, well. I may have to go through the Northwind Tutorial to get started.

    I would love to be able to discuss some of these issues with people, but electronically is not very good because it's not possible to point at the screen and show working examples. (I'm beginning to find chat annoying because it can take so long to communicate. The best part is the record that is there.)

    Sunday, October 14, 2001
    Mercedes sent feedback on my learning blueprint. The basic suggestions for modification and enhancement to the learning blueprint are:

    1. Be more specific about the software I plan to use and the resources I will use learning that software, as well as the resources (print and electronic) I will use to help with that task.Hmm, this could be difficult since I'm basically looking at database and ODBC connections in a server environment and searching and using canned code as much as possible. Maybe programming only counts if it's LOGO?

    2. Use peers for feedback about my progress so that I can gauge my own community participation.

    3. Join new groups to contrast with the old ones. Well, I've been wanting to get into VB lists, so it looks like this is the time.

    It also appeared that Mercedes did not fully understand my blueprint as her words implied that I was merely creating a community for others to learn. That was definitely not my intention but, in looking back over my blueprint, I think I see how she got that idea. I'll revise and republish after KEEP.

    Also, in looking at possibilities, I think that I will contact Scott with Genwwwy and get his feedback. Heck, if I could get a trial account, I think it would help a lot with this and my ARP. I will also do a trial Manila site after Glenn and I have talked some more.

    I did find an interesting URL on using Electronic Mail Discussion Groups. Although similar to what we are doing in Pepperdine, I will see if that is a viable first pass for the kids to start discussing among themselves.

    Sunday, October 07, 2001
    I posted a message to ISED-L about Instant messaging. The one I sent on October 6 was:

    I have to admit to being somewhat confused here. I have been following this thread with interest because 1)I've recently become a heavy user of IM and MOOs as a result of a Masters program I'm in 2)I'm working with a teacher in California and one of the ways we are getting our classes to communicate is through IM, 3)at our middle school we recently decided to put AIM and Messenger clients on all student machines.

    IM is a fact of life for most companies. When an undersea cable was severed off of Singapore recently, it slowed most Asian Internet traffic and knocked some of the net until it could all be rerouted. I talked with employees of one of the financial companies and the fact that IM was down was a big problem as they routinely used it for short checks with their counterparts in other countries during the day.

    So, is the issue with IM one of students using it inappropriately or at inappropriate times, or one of them spending so much time at it that the supervisors feel they are ignoring other priorities?

    (Note: We did the last one because we felt that IM during class is the same as passing notes. It's up to the teacher to handle it. If we were to ban IM, we would then be chasing down all of the users of IM, and those who surreptitiously install it, and then have to discipline them. It wasn't worth it our time or effort. )

    I received two private replies thanking me for posting. The replies to list ran the gaumat from we just needed to set rules with consequences to we have to prepare students for their future, not our past. The most poignant one discussed the need to guide students, and closed with "We are preparing our students for their world, the emerging world, not our world, the world of the past." (D. Withrow)

    I replied to all of these on October 7 with:

    Thanks for the many replies to my question about IM. I can appreciate the difficulty of the issue, especially in boarding schools, where the teachers are acting in loco parentis.

    Just some quick thoughts about IM and school and to answer the various questions. No, our high school does not have it installed, but they also have few public access computers. As for IM in the Middle School, yes some kids chat inappropriately. But when they have paper, they pass notes. When they are sitting next to each other they write notes while trying to look like they are paying attention. There is no difference in how it is handled as it's all rude behavior. Yes, some teachers are still oblivious to it, but that's a class management issue.

    During their free time, some students may spend time doing other things when their school work really needs to be done. We have ways of identifying and "helping" those students. "Helping" usually means that most of their free time disappears and they end up in supervised resource centers.

    As for IM, I tend to agree with David Withrow who wrote:

    We ought not pretend that education is in the pre - electronic
    communication age. If we are to do this our students will surely conclude
    that we are not relevant to the world in which they are emerging. When to
    use the modes of communication needs to be explored and guided. Explored
    because it is a societal determination when these communications are
    appropriate which we are currently exploring; and, guided because we are
    the teachers to pass along to subsequent generations. It is hard, the
    rules are emerging: no cells in concert halls, no cells while courts in
    session, no computers for the contestants on games shows :-P, no ims on
    the bar exam, probably only hands free while driving, etc.

    We are preparing our students for their world, the emerging world, not our world, the world of the past.

    There are some tough issues surrounding the use of technologies and, as teachers, we do have to be there to help guide the students.

    ISED-Lers, Take a look at what your students are doing and writing on IM, in email, on blogs, journals, and free web sites. With electronic tools students have created their own community at school that is outside of "school". It doesn't matter if we try to regulate it or not--it's there. It's obvious that most of the students have a sense of community, but it's not the community we think it is. And it generally excludes us. The question then becomes how to help them transfer some of that sense of community to what we consider to be "learning". Pardon the quotes around those, but I'm becoming more convinced our curriculum does not have as large of effect on what the students are learning as we think.

    I will be interested in the replies. I can see that I will find some people of like mind in the groups.

    Friday, October 05, 2001
    Mercedes got back on the newsgroup with some suggestions. First, she wanted me to put down what online community I would join. That didn't thrill me very much because I haven't really found a good community externally. I've been through so many list servers over the years that I'm burned out on most of them. But, ISED-L and Wizards-L are pretty good, so I'll use those. She did suggest looking at discourse experts or similar, which seems to be an excellent idea so I'm looking. I did have a thought as I'm filling this out--maybe bloggers in general can give me some idea of ways to approach my project.

    I finished the comments for the students using the Access database that they filled out on the web. I was amazed at how slick it was. It was so much better than using a Word document as a data source, and when I started the merge, I saw that I could actually use a DSN or a SQL server as my source. Cool! I can see some real possibilities, especially if I can get it to the point where they can edit their own posts. It also completed my September goals for my learning blueprint

    It's time to look at the GenY stuff again. (Hey, I think I just figured out who my expert will be! I know I didn't go to NCCE for nothing last march. I'll contact the fellow.)

    Also, what Amy and I are doing will count for some of this research as I test out various methods. I can even see a possiblity for them to upload their AIM logs, then be able to view them online. It would become part of the public record of the project. I'm a big fan of having the records of a group effort public.

    Oh, ISED-L just had a debate about instant messaging (IM) services. It seems many of the members see IM as a "problem" because kids use it when they should be studying or some such. I intend to write and ask for some clarification.

    Tuesday, October 02, 2001
    I've submitted my learning blueprint. It's doable. I've already set up a database to collect information from students and write replies, but it still requires merging in Word. I'm going to work on getting it so they can see and view the conversations. However, I have to be very careful of security and privacy issues.