It’s OK to disconnect

I am somewhat of an anomaly as an instructional technologist.

Meaning, technology and I– we have a love/hate relationship. You know, it’s complicated. It’s not you technology, it’s me.

It is my job to stay on top of “current and emerging” technologies. Try new things, test new things, create new things. Have the research and case studies handy to back up its effectiveness in education.  And ultimately coax and encourage  adoption of these “things” by the faculty and staff.  What goes on in the digital world is nothing short of a 1000 miracles.  I should know, I spend 8 hours a day living in it. I freakin’ love it.

It’s FASCINATING,  the speed of digital evolution. The effect it has on our lives [and if you're really feeling philosophical, human evolution].

BUT – when I leave work, I pull the plug. I disconnect from the digital world.  There is no smart phone in my possession, I do not touch a computer outside of work. And guess what??? I am still alive and [gasp] have a healthy social life.  There have been times (no joke) when I go all weekend without  using a phone.  What do I do? I hang out with human beings, garden, swim, bike, run, read books. It’s GLORIOUS.

The Trend

A single mother and her three teenagers took digital technology rebellion to a higher level and went 6 months without electronic media .  She lived to tell the tale in The Winter of Our Disconnect. Read it.

Ivan Cash started a project Snail Mail my Email on July 15th in which you type a message to a friend, lover, family member via email and volunteers hand-write it then send it via snail mail free of charge.  True, its not yourhandwriting, but the recipient will be overjoyed to find a good ole’ fashioned letter in their mailbox. Update: There has been such an overwhelming response they have pulled the site to restructure and  meet the needs of the project.

Other projects have popped up globally like the recent National Day of Unplugging by Sabbath Manifesto or the free application, Freedom, that forces your computer to go offline for up to 8 hours at a time. There are even apps to prevent you from texting while driving.

It’s natural that a world becoming so increasingly “connected” would eventually see a trend to disconnect.  No need to go to extremes, it just takes a little practice in the lost art of self discipline.

Take it from a girl who unplugs regularly.  It’s refreshing.

thanks John M. for the picture pose 

Google Apps are here!

It’s a Google world and I’m a Google girl.  Which is why I have been so excited to see that our latest changes to the CFCC information highway (MyCFCC portal) brought with it Google Apps.

The search engine giant has seemlessly woven its strategic influx of  new ‘apps’ into my life over the past few years.  So much that, sadly, I can  state with confirmation, “I do not know what I would do in a world without Google.”

Why I’m a fan (and you should be too)

  1. Google it- When I have a question, I Google it. Answered. 
  2. One size fits all- There’s an app for everyone. All lifestyles, all digital skill levels, all languages. 
  3. Doesn’t discriminate- Google Docs made word processing, spreadsheets and presentation software accessible.  For free.  Better yet you can convert your Google docs to other file formats, including Microsoft.  Better still, your google docs are stored in the almighty cloud.  Meaning; if there’s internet, there’s your docs.
  4. Gone Mobile- While I am still lagging in the world of mobile computing (ahem, texting only), Google has managed to surpass Apple and Nokia.  Leading in the word in smart phone sales.  Why?  Android and Google are working hard to get your heart’s desire into your phone.
  5.  iGoogle  (image above).  My daily operation headquarters.  From here live news and blog feeds, access to my bookmarks, documents, weather, email, calendar, EVERYTHING.  All conviently bundled into one spot.

Still not convinced?

Drop by one of my two sessions during In Service Training on August 11th.   We’ll play around with the new CFCC Apps (operated by Google). Before you know it you’ll be as Google dependent the rest of us. ;)

Update:  I failed to mention the soft release of Google + the new social media site (not open to the public until the end of the month).   You may start to hear buzzwords like ‘Hangout’ and ‘Circles’. Currently, the site is only open to 250,000 of the world’s elite geeks one of them being Facebook star and founder, Mark Zuckerberg (btw has the largest following in Google + ahead of Google founder, Larry Page) .

 It’s no secret that Google and Facebook sweat each other.  Facebook publicly released today its merger with Skype (both blocked at CFCC) which now enables you to video chat with your friends. The ante is up. It will be interesting to see who takes the pot. Does Google have what it takes to reign champion in social media? Or should they just stick with what they’re good at…organizing.

**With Facebook and Skype both filtered on our college campus, it makes me wonder if Google + might be the future for Sea Devils.

Alternative presentations: Prezi

Geology Instructor, Alvin Coleman, gave his students options this semester.  Students were divided into groups and ask to research and present on a specific geologic/environmental disaster.  The oral presentation did not have any specific visual requirements.  Alvin left it up to the individuals groups to decide their  presenting the material.  Coleman did, however,  introduce a new visual tool to his students. Prezi, a free web-based presentation software.

Prezi is non-linear. Think of it as a  concept map rather than a typical slide (Power Point) presentation. 

Perks of Prezi

  • Access anywhere, anytime.  You don’t have to worry about carrying around your flashdrive.
  • Real time collaboration- can have up to 3 people working on a presentation at the same time.
  • Presentations are stored “in the cloud”.  500MB of storage if you join with an education license.
  • Ability to download a flash copy of your presentation to your computer.

The design and specfications of the assignment were clear and provided to the students.  Coleman also provided a detailed grading rubric in addition to the project requirements. 

Here’s a look at some of the Prezi’s groups created….

“The stars look very different today”

Re ignition

Have you ever experienced the ignition of a spark behind some one’s eyes during instruction or a lecture? I’m not necessarily referring to the classic “aha!” moment. This spark lies deeper, it’s the moment some one’s eyes say to you, “Yes I get it, and not only that, I can’t wait for other people to get it too.”

To bear witness to moments such as this are rare and beautiful. It is infectious and captivating. While conducting a workshop on Digital Storytelling last month, I saw it. I saw the exact moment of the “reigniting of creative passion” as she so delicately worded it herself in a recent write up for the English Department’s newsletter. It was then I knew I had a partner in my Digital Storytelling pursuit (ahem… obsession).

Major Tom

Originally a communications major, Bridget Floyd worked as a DJ for the local radio station in Morehead, NC. But working in the limelight left Bridget with a desire to reach out and do something more for humankind. She wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.  To inspire. Bridget wanted to teach.  So, Bridget headed back to her Alma mater, East Carolina University, to pursue a Masters in Creative Writing.

Bridget Floyd has worked in the English Department for the last seven years and even has her own family within the CFCC family.  Her hubby is Justin Floyd, the talented graphic designer.  [side note: the story of how these two became one. wicked cute. ask them.]

It quickly becomes clear on your first encounter with Bridget that she has an inner strength and passion for life that most can only hope for.

Commencing Countdown

Tech-NO-logy.  The technology-infused-instruction spectrum is vast  that is for sure.  On one end you have the “I just–I am just NOT good at technology” attitude to Jimmy Fallon’s  SNL character Nick Burns: The Computer Guy.   Watch it.

Yes. As quick as technology advances, it becomes outdated.  We begin to convince ourselves and others that it’s a waste of precious instructional time to learn the “newest” thing.  Soon it will become just another useless object sitting in the corner of a classroom, right?  Bridget was brutally honest  in her write up Reigniting Creative Passion Through Technology when she stated, “Our students are the generation devoted to fast paced technology, and some of us, mostly me, are still stuck in the year 2000.”

No. This admission does not make Bridget Floyd an ineffective teacher. Quite the contrary.  Bridget felt a need to try something different.  She signed up for a 60 minute Digital Storytelling Workshop. 

3…2…1…blast off…

The crux of the Digital Storytelling workshop was to introduce the participants to the wonderful world of Animoto. This is a lovely place where anyone can create a professional looking slide show simply by: uploading images, writing 32 or less characters of text, selecting a song, and clicking the ‘Finalize” button.  Animoto does the production work for you somewhere off in cyberspace and sends you a confirmation email when they’re done.

During the workshop, the participants were asked come up with their own definition of  ‘digital storytelling’ using Animoto as their medium.  But, Bridget didn’t stop there, she went home that night and created an Animoto of the English Department’s Welcoming of Spring Celebration. She shared it with her fellow faculty.  And we have lift off.  

Ground control to Major Tom

In less than a month, Bridget has successfully created and implemented two new Animotos on rhetorical modes (check out her one on ‘Argument’ below) and has plans to complete the other three this summer.  Bridget said that the fast-paced movement  and music in the Animotos have her Developmental English students begging for more. 

Bridget also worked with Margo Williams to introduce Animoto to students as an option for using it with their creative writing  projects. When Bridget’s students read The Color of Water novel this fall,  she has plans to strengthen students critical thinking skills by converting ‘images to text’.  And how will they do this? You guessed it, Animoto.

 Can you hear me Major Tom?

Bridget Floyd not only reignited the spark of passion within herself but me as well.  While she was at home that night  creating a beautiful slide show of her faculty comrades, I was at home  daydreaming of co-teaching a free Digital Storytelling Workshop to the community. Imagine the many magnificent life stories our residents could tell if only they had a means…

Thank you Bridget for reminding me of why I became an instructional technologist, and thank you for agreeing to be my Digital Storytelling partner-in-crime. :)

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Arithme-technology

It’s no secret that the Math Department has got it goin’ on when it comes to technology infused instruction. But, since my arrival at CFCC last November, I’ve heard a name repeatedly dropped into the “techie” conversations.  It’s almost like a whisper…Clauuuuude Mooooooooooore.

Where to begin?

Dr. Claude Moore was paving the way for technology integration when I was still taking my dolls for a ride in the Radio Flyer.

Example #1 in the early 1980′s Claude had a student who was leaving for a few weeks one semester to go to NYC and study design.  Rather than having her withdraw or get grossly behind in class, Claude videotaped all of his lessons and mailed the videocassettes via FedEx to New York. Talk about innovation and dedication!

Example #2 while working at Danville Community College in Virginia, Claude was the first instructor to deliver class through satellite television.

Example #3 he started his own math webpage in 1997.  It’s still active!

Math Department and Moore…

The Math Department works hard to prepare students for the work force.  From screen captured lesson recordings using Camtasia to interactive web-based lessons created with Soft Chalk, the students are in abundance of resources to help them in their mathematical endeavors.  The Math Department has initiated Student Workshops and work together organizing the upcoming events using the collaborative tool, Google Docs.  Department Chair, Kenneth Hufham, definitely keeps ahead of the curve and just recently purchased web cams for every math instructor.

Claude Moore is spritely, full of energy, knowledge and ideas. After spending over 40 years in the field of education and teaching, this is a rare find. Claude began working at Cape Fear Community College in 2005.  He is the webmaster for the Math/PE Department and the Math Lab page.

It’s the students that count

When it comes down to it, Claude Moore is dedicated to his students and a master of his craft. Everything  (class notes, lectures, problem examples, etc) is posted online and available 24/7 for his students.

Moore is not a man who tests the water with his feet, he jumps in.  This semester, Claude started his own blog through CFCC Blogs called Having Fun…Learning Math and has even toyed around with online animation using (one of my personal favorites) Go! Animate.  Watch his 16 second “Who Am I?” animation here.

Still hungry for Moore?

All “Moore” puns aside, the faculty and students of Cape Fear Community College are lucky to have Dr. Claude Moore.