Today was Assessment Day at my university. Last year I wasn’t quite sure what this meant and was afraid that I was going to have to take a test of some sort; however, I soon learned that it is code for “professional development” and “meeting day” in higher ed lingo.
Ah, but I digress. . .
Today we had a visions and goals meeting with our dean and it was good. As individuals and as a department we were able to talk about our goals and the future of our department and it was good. We were able to complain even, but we got answers and support from our boss and it was good. So the only “required” meeting of the day was a success, I think, by most people’s standards. Okay, no more Genesis allusions. ;)
The afternoon was filled with technology opportunities that I apparently volunteered to offer at this professional development day. (And, yes indeed, I did volunteer on September 30 via email, but I sure didn’t remember that when I got the agenda on Sunday and saw that I was on it!) So I was to do sessions on using clickers with the Promethean Board and on using Skype for virtual office hours. Not a problem, as I had used the clickers with my classes earlier in the semester and had a mini quiz already done. And I had done Skype a few weeks ago so that preso was ready, too. I got to work this morning and rushed to my office computer to see if I could find the Promethean clickers quiz since I failed to locate it on my laptop last night; nor was it on the many flash drives I located at home. I did finally find the quiz on a flash drive in my purse of all places! So I reviewed the quiz I had already and had time to create a new one for practice. Whew, I was ready. In my humble opinion, prior planning is still WAY overrated. Or as a magnet in my office so eloquently states, I am not late--I am WAITING till the last minute!
So my first presentation went great on the clickers although I did have a few technical difficulties; but in my usual smart aleck form, I made it a teachable moment and asked my colleagues what they would do. So we learned a little troubleshooting and to not take ourselves so seriously when using technology. I offered many suggestions for using the Promethean clickers for quizzes as a formative assessment rather than a summative one--mostly because we were having trouble getting all the clickers to work and to verify which person had which clicker. And I demonstrated how I would include math information and analysis as we went along through the questions. After my two sample quizzes, I then started over and showed the other professors how to create their own quiz. They seemed to “get it” and I was pretty pleased with myself.
Now, it had taken me more than the allotted 30 minutes to do this session and so I had basically gone on through the Skype session, but I thought everyone at my clickers session had already done Skype so it was okay to skip over it. BUT I found that one online professor had come just for Skype instruction so I took her upstairs to my office for a personal lesson on Skype. We practiced calling and answering calls from another colleague down the hall and even had some sound and other technical issues. The person learning Skype thought this was great, though, because she could see how to fix the problems that came up as we were connecting to our other colleague. So back downstairs we went to see what Web 2.0 tools were being shared. Hmmmm, the same person was still at the presenter computer describing how to set up a wiki and apparently no one knew why they needed a wiki or what they could do with it. Oops, the tools we use are only good if they match the task we have, right?
So, no one else had a tool to share and I do love a captive audience, so I “retook”my teacher computer at the front. I showed the remaining profs some tools I like and what I used them for in my classes. Then I was showing off (let’s just say it like it is) my Delicious account of social bookmarks--I have over 2300 education-related sites marked. And I showed my fellow educators how to find stuff in my big ol’ list with tags. They thought was a great resource and were very complimentary of my technology skills. Then someone asked about how to get students to find the “right” resources for lesson plans instead of the top 5 or 10 from Google or Yahoo, so I showed them how to do a Google Custom Search right there, right then. Here is a link to it. And it gets even better!!! I tried to explain what web 2.0 was and how it was different from web 1.0 and ended up explaining how I use Facebook for a personal networking site and Plurk for a professional networking site.
My explanation of Plurk seemed to make sense to them so I showed them a recent conversation I had been involved in about the tension between K-12 teachers and those of us in the “ivory tower”. See it here.
And in my conversations and in my teaching today, I realized that I was in the groove. You know that place where what you are doing and what you love come together and you are in an amazing place and you know it! My back hadn’t hurt in over 2 hours because I was busy teaching or as Gus put it when I got home--You were just being Laurie. You are who you are and that is never more evident when you are showing people the technology that you love. Hmmm, so how lucky was I today? Pretty damn lucky. I am where I am supposed to be. The road I traveled to get here was just a part of the journey, even though it was rocky at times. I felt the flow that I have read about before in books about athletes and businessmen and I reveled in it. I want to create that atmosphere of learning and questioning and thinking in all that I do and I am ready to step up to the challenge.