Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Using Web2.0 to Harness Collective Intelligence and Build Community Among Students

My proposal to present at the TechEd 2007, the 12th Annual Technology in Education Conference and Tech Exposition, in Ontario, California, March 25-28, 2007, was accepted, so I will be presenting in March.

The presentation addresses techniques for using Web 2.0 to harness collective intelligence and build community among students. Attendees will learn how Web2.0 sites like blogging, bookmarking, podcasting, wiki, and start page sites can be incorporated into the classroom to encourage better student interaction and sharing of course content and personal knowledge. We will first briefly define Web 2.0 as the 2nd generation of Internet based services that allow for better collaboration and sharing among people through collaboration tools and folksonomies, a labeling process called tagging. Then we will demonstrate how all these tools have been incorporated into a freshman composition course.

A social networking blog, LiveJournal, is used to disseminate information from the instructor to the students. Students also have their own LiveJournal blogs and all blogs, student and instructor, are networked in what is called a community of friends. Everyone is one click away from seeing all recent posts by members of the community. In addition, the instructor blog is syndicated and students subscribe via email updates and receive emails with daily instructor updates. Email subscriptions are set up with Feedburner, another Web 2.0 tool. Feedburner is a feed management provider. We will show attendees how to burn a feed and use the tools to broadcast and publicize the feed to students.

Wikis are another Web 2.0 collaboration tool that will be demonstrated in this presentation. Wikis are used in this same freshman composition course as a tool for sharing information and presenting student portfolios. A wiki is a website that allows visitors to easily edit content. We will demonstrate how students use the wiki to share information on different unit themes. Groups of students are responsible for researching and then sharing the information on the wiki. They work together on presentation and content creation. Students are also taught to use the RSS feeds on the wiki to stay up-to-date with their group’s editing schedule and be informed when new content from other groups is ready to be viewed.

Another Web 2.0 tool that will be demonstrated is the use of social bookmarking tools like Yahoo’s My Web and Students use these bookmarking tools to save websites related to unit themes. Students use the RSS feeds and folksonomies (tagging) in these bookmarking sites to share the information on the course wiki and in blog post on LiveJournal.

The presentation will be presented on a wiki using all of the same Web 2.0 tools previewed in the presentation, including a podcast of the session, and will be available to participants after the presentation is over. The presentation wiki will also provide an annotated bibliography to accompany the presentation. This wiki will serve as handouts.

If you haven't registered yet for the conference, now is the time, and I hope to see some fellow Maricopans over in sunny California. :-)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Only 4 Weeks Left

I can't believe that my switch is almost over. Time sure flies when you're having fun. Isn't that what they always say? I've been very busy presenting on podcasting that I haven't had time to blog lately, so I have lots saved up to say. I'm just trying to find time to write.

My podcasting series over at GCC November 1, 6 & 8th was a much bigger success than the series I presented at SMC. The main difference was attendance. The GCC series was advertised through MCLI and was booked up in a matter of days. We had over 25 participants for all three sessions. It was lots of fun sharing my podcasting resources with faculty in the district. If you're interested, you can visit my Coop's Word Wiki to check out the presentations. There is a podcast and a screencast for the second session. A screencast and a podcast is in the works for the third session as well. Click the chicklet below to get to the wiki.

I was accepted to present at the Tech Ed conference in March. Maureen Julian of TechEd Events wrote:
Congratulations! You have been selected to present at TechEd 2007, our 12th Annual Technology in Education Conference and Tech Exposition, in Ontario, California, March 25-28, 2007.

I'm so excited to have been selected to present. I'll post my proposal in a later post.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

High Tech, White Boards and Developmental Writers

Okay, first notice that I didn't say Smartboards. I said white boards. I would love to be posting about the use of Smartboards in my developmental writing class at GCC, but that is not the case today. I'm posting about the technology of white boards and markers and technology use in developmental classes. I often struggle with the protestation of using technology in developmental writing courses. Some say that developmental writers are not ready to use technology and that many will struggle with the technology and miss out on learning the necessary writing skills. Others, including myself, feel that the use of technology only enhances the writing and learning experience. The debate is on going.

From the Bedford Bibliography for Teachers of Basic Writing:
According to a survey of basic writing teachers across the country, a disparity exists in the use of technology in developmental programs. Reinforcing the claims of earlier empirical studies, Stan and Collins find that using computer technologies in developmental classrooms positively influences students' attitudes toward writing and improves both the appearance and quantity of student writing. However, numerous institutional issues effect successful computer use, such as differences in the levels of technology currently available, resistance among faculty and students, lack of infrastructure, uneven access to professional development among staff, and lack of visibility for successful efforts.
Stan, Susan, and Terence G. Collins. "Basic Writing: Curricular Interactions with New Technology." Journal of Basic Writing 17.1 (1998): 18–41.

I can say that I've experienced both views. Students in my developmental writing courses at SMC have been inundated with technology. They are using wikis, blogs, word processors and a course management system. The level of technology skills in those classes is broad with students coming in with absolutely no computer experience to those who have experience in basic word processing and email. Very few have experience using the new web 2.0 features like blogs and wikis. I lose a lot of the students early on in the developmental courses. Some semesters I've lost close to half of my students by the end of a semester. I've always associated most of the drops to the students fear of this new technology and have tried doubly hard to train students in the proper use of the technology. Well, I don't feel that way any more.

I'm teaching a developmental writing course here at GCC, and unfortunately I have no access to technology in the class itself besides my shiny white boards, overhead projector from 1950, and a vcr/dvd combo and television. This of course is no reflection on the college; it's just a this is what's left situation. This late start 8 week course loaded with 24 students, and 20 showed the first day. The second class 15 came back, and now in the 4th week I'm down to 8. Where did they all go? It's the same pattern I see in my courses at SMC where we have abundant access to technology in the class and out. So I'm fairly confident that it is not the technology scaring my students away. It's the "I can't do this" attitude that many of our developmental writers come into college with.

It's not the technology. There is too much research out there that states the positive effects of technology use in developmental writing courses as well as the negative effects of a new generation of apathetic students. We just have to keep trying to find ways to keep them interested and to educate them.

Friday, October 20, 2006

What Was I Thinking?

One of my hybrid courses didn't make this semester at GCC, so I was given a late start ENG071 class. That's usually the process at most campuses if a class doesn't make; you get the sloppy leftovers. Initially I didn't want to teach this course because I didn't have time to prepare for it. I teach it over at SMC, but they use a different book here at GCC, and I was only give a week's notice. I took it because it was late start, so actually I would have 8 weeks to prepare. That was my first mistake.

My second mistake was thinking that I could go back to "old school" and teach in a classroom with absolutely no technology. Well, it has been only two weeks, and this is just not going to work. How do you teach writing with no technology? I don't know. I've filled up every whiteboard in the room with my chicken scratch, and I even confuse myself with my train of thought and organization on the board. How do you organize information on a white board? And where do you write when you run out of space? What happens when I erase it? Do the students erase it from their minds as well? I just don't know.

So after the first week, I broke down and requested that students email me their drafts of the first essay. Most did and I was able to mark up the Word documents using the commenting and track changes features in MS Word. I also left a few voice comments as well. They were masterpieces full of helpful information for my students. It felt so good. I felt... I guess, relieved.

The hardest part for students is that most don't understand the concept of an 8 week course. Class time is not only longer, but the work is greater because you have less time inwhich to do it. After the first class, many students didn't bother to come back. There are many possiblities as to why: no books available in the bookstore the first week, an action packed syllabus with lots of homework each week, or having to sit through a 2 1/2 hour class twice a week. Even I'm getting bored with that! That's a long time. I look at the one piece of technology in the room, a TV and VCR, and think I should show a movie. We've got plenty of time. But what kind of movie do you show a developmental writing class? You don't. Not until they've got the writing skills down and they're ready for some creative prewriting activities.

Until then I will continue to madly scribble notes and examples on my whiteboards, do practice exercises out of the book, and do lots of writing and peer review in class. And who knows, maybe I'll continue to sneak technology activities into the course and we'll be full on "Cooper style" before the end of the semester.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

GCC's Congested Network Problem

I created some very helpful screencasts for my student the other day to help them with learning how to edit their portfolio assessment wiki. I knew the students would be able to remember how to do simply by seeing it demonstrated once in class, so I used Camtasia Studio to do a screen capture as I demonstrated what it was I wanted for them to do. I then saved the screen captures as screencasts. I uploaded the flash files to my personal server hosted at SiteGround hosting and linked to it from the class blog and Blackboard. Great idea, except the network congestion on campus during peak hours prohibited many students from viewing the screencasts.

This really disappoints me because without these tutorials, many students were lost. They would either have to go home to access the screencasts using a high speed internet connection or not do the assignment at all. Sadly many chose the latter option.

For a sanity check, I followed the link to the screencasts today while I was on the South Mountain CC campus. I was linked up and viewing in a matter of seconds. No delay what so ever, and this was around 11am. This is clearly a problem at GCC, and I really hope they are working on a solution.

Personal Motive for the Switch?

Rear View
Originally uploaded by professorcooper.
Sure! I most certainly do not miss driving in this mess every day. I had to be down at SMC this morning at 8:30am. I left at about 7:15 from my home in Peoria. It was 8:15 when I realized I was not going to get there in time if I stayed on the freeway. I hadn't made it very far in 1 hour in this rush hour mess, so I ditched the I-10 via the 67th Avenue exit and headed south toward the mountain. I was making pretty good time until I ran into a tractor. Yep, a tractor on the city streets in Phoenix. Okay, maybe that area isn't consider city, but still a tractor?

After making my way around the tractor, I managed to make it from 67th Avenue and Southern to 24th Street and Baseline in about 15 minutes. I was 10 minutes late.

The stress I felt while driving in this mess was great. I'd forgotten how wound up I could get when the traffic didn't flow as fast as I'd like it to. I'd forgotten about that during these last 8 weeks at GCC. I'm only 10 minutes, 5 miles away from GCC. No stress in that. So, yes, there is a bit of personal motive in my decision to do the switch from SMC to GCC for the fall semester.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Parking? An Issue?

I can't believe I'm writing a post about parking. I guess with over 20,000 students at GCC it is bound to be somewhat of a problem. Well, yesterday as I was leaving campus to run home for something, I was accosted in the parking lot by an overzealous faculty or staff member. Okay, accosted is probably not the word. I was kindly asked if I was faculty or staff as I searched my overstuffed gadget back for my keys. I was parked right up front in one of the prime "employee" parking spaces, and my week old rental car did not display the tell all blue sticker identifying me as superior to others and worthy of front row parking. Don't get me wrong. I most certainly appreciated the perks afforded me as a faculty member. GCC's parking lots are huge, and with it still over 100 degrees everyday, I'm thankful I'm not walking a mile to class in the morning.

I turned to respond with my red stringed propaganda proudly hanging from around my neck and was immediately recognized as one of the elite. The enforcer of employee parking gave me my reprieve but continued on his merry way to write down license plate numbers for the many cars not stickered and parked in prime parking spots marked "employee." This was all interesting to me because there seem to be plenty of campus security on campus walking or riding the "beat." However, in one week's time, I received only one "warning" for parking in employee parking without a sticker. I'm sure with the lack of enforcement many students will risk it once or twice to make it to class on time. Heck even I considered getting a temporary parking pass for the week, but with those odds I didn't bother.

Actually I find it all quite amusing. We voted down employee parking at SMC. They have the attitude that the paying customer should be just as privileged to park up front as the president of the college, so you won't find a spot mark "president" on the SMC campus. But of course it's easy to agree to that when the walk from the furthest spot in the lot at SMC is shorter than my walk from the HT1 building to the HU building on the GCC campus. I'm getting tired just thinking about it. :-)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Vyew - One of the Perks of Computer Literate Students

I've been using Vyew to conference with my hybrid students in my ENG102 course this semester at GCC. This is new for me because at SMC I didn't have enough students with computer access at home for it to work. I send invites to join the converence via email. Students then log in to Vyew and are able to view their essay that I have uploaded to the presentation. I use the built in drawing tools to annotate the paper as I talk through it with the student. Students call me on the phone. There is a built in free conference call feature with a set phone number, but the number is long distance. It's easier to just use cell phones.

What is Vyew?

Vyew is a browser-based conferencing and always-on collaboration platform that provides instant visual communication without the need for client downloads or installations. Vyew's multimedia workspace enables shared viewing of presentations, files, photos and one's desktop. Included are tools for whiteboarding, annotating, text chatting, and phone conferencing. And it's all FREE! Yep, Free Web-Based Collaboration is their tagline. You will need to install flash if you don't already have it. It works on both PC and Mac.

This is a great tool for hybrid students because it can be done anytime during the day, and students don't have to try to meet with me during my limited office hours. They can schedule conferences through the day or evening as long as I'm available. Today I did four between 12:30-3:30pm all from the comfort of my home.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

First CTC Meetings

GCC had their first College Technology Committee (CTC) meeting of the semester last Tuesday. There were about 45-50 people in attendance, which was surprising to me. I'm not clear on how many of those folks were faculty, but I did recognize about five as such. The committee is headed by a faculty member. At South, our CTC is co-chaired by myself (faculty) and the head of Instructional Technology Services (MAT). We average about 3 faculty per meeting even though we have an open door policy and invite everyone to attend.

GCC has been experiencing some network bandwidth problems during prime time 8-noon this semester, so that was a hot topic during this meeting. It was reported that District decided to block some popular websites to help alleviate the congestion, but that was short lived because the sites being blocked were sites that instructors wanted students to have access to. You can probably guess which sites were being blocked: My Space and YouTube.

This apparently has not been an issue on the SMC campus. The network appears to be working as fast as it normally does during peak hours. Given the number of students we have on the SMC campus, less than 4000, network congestion just doesn't seem to be a problem. However, some of the other issues discussed at the GCC CTC meeting could apply.

One such issue was the college website. The committee discussed the possibility of a website redesign to get uniformity of pages throughout the college. They discussed forming a Web Steering Committee to get this process going. Surprisingly there were quite a few people present that are responsible for one or more college webpages, about 8. That's surprising because at South, we have one person in charge of the website. We can all edit it if we like, but for the most part, one person manages the whole thing. SMC has already started their on web redesign, but they have hired an outside consultant and company to redesign the college webpage.

SMC will have their first CTC meeting this coming Wednesday. On the agenda for the first meeting of the semester is: budget development, softchalk/elluminate and other teaching tools, goals for the year, and student email. We're making a strong effort to get more faculty involvement this year, so we're going to try to put things of interest to faculty on the agenda. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Will We Ever Be Able to Do Away With the Copy Machine?

I'm not sure why I would ask that question considering making copies is big business, especially on college campuses. I guess I ponder this because I had to make copies for a class yesterday for the first time in a year or so. Well, at least it feels that long. Anyway I can't remember the last time. It always seems like a waste of paper. There is a point to this post. The Big Switch. Making copies. Yeah, it's pretty much the same here at GCC as it is over at SMCC. Both campuses use Ikon Office Solutions for their copy center needs. IKON is an outside vendor contracted by the Maricopa district to provide facilities management services. So all the colleges use them. At South they boast,
IKON Office Solutions is proud to be the provider of copy equipment and services at South Mountain Community. We currently maintain twenty-two copy machines on campus including 2 satellite locations (Guadalupe Center and Ahwatukee Foothills. We are responsible to keeping your machines serviced and stocked with supplies and paper. In addition to our maintenance responsibilities, we provide a full-service Copy Center located in the center of campus in the back of the Learning Resource Center.
I'm not sure how many machines they maintain over at GCC, but I'm sure it has to be at least double. Ikon basically offers the same services at both campuses. We have a pin code that can be used on any machine, copy requests can be made just about anywhere on campus and left for pickup and delivery, copies can be requested via email using this strange Excel form that has to be downloaded. Some day I'm sure they'll make it simpler by creating an online form with an attachment feature. Some day. For now, IKON as far as I'm concerned is doing a good job in both locations. Of course that's easy for me to say since I rarely make copies.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Students Try Out Exchange in MyCompLab

The first essay in my ENG101 course was due last Sunday, and students were instructed to upload their essays to Exchange in MyCompLab. Exchange is Pearson's new program that helps professors and students exchange comments on students' writing. Students can comment on each other's papers online and instructors can review and grade papers online. Exchange is part of Pearson's MyCompLab 2.0, which is a dynamic and comprehensive site that engages as it helps to improve grammar, writing, and research skills. Highlights include: Grammar Diagnostics, ExerciseZone, Exchange, Writing Process and Activities, Model Documents Gallery, Research Navigator, and Avoiding Plagiarism tutorials.

So far the majority of students were able to upload their essays to the site. One major problem that has kept students from being able to upload and review essays is the requirement of a Shockwave plugin. Most newer computers wil have the plug in, or in IE or Firefox a dialogue box will pop up prompting users to download and install the plug in. Students who are having difficult with the site are the ones unable to download and install this plugin. This is frustrating for both myself and my students. Students will have to use the computers at school in order to use this part of Exchange, which may not be as convenient for them.

We adopted a Pearson Longman handbook for this year over at SMC, so I was lucky enough to be able to use the online materials with my courses at GCC. The handbook we adopted is the Brief
Penguin Handbook. I think it's a little better than the handbook they use at GCC. When it gets down to the nitty gritty, a handbook is a handbook, but what else the publishers offer in terms of technology and online supplements is what separates the good handbooks for the so-so.

No Mail, No Phone, No Worries

And who's complaining? Certainly not me. I finally made it over to the mail room, which is no where near my office, to pick up my mail. I thought it might be a good idea to at least get my pay stub from my first pay check. The box was jammed pack with mail, all of which was addressed to Nancy. Apparently GCC is marking Nancy's mail with SMC and sending it over there, but they are just marking GCC on and sending it back. Guess they didn't get the memo down there. You'd think having mail forwarded from one place to another wouldn't be so difficult. Of course this doesn't answer the question to "Where is my mail?" Guess I'll have to solve that mystery tomorrow.

It's week 4 and no one has noticed that I still don't have access to my office phone. To tell the truth, I don't mind if no one else is complaining. I give all my students a Skype number that I have forwarded to my cell, so there's no problem with that. I'm not sure who would be trying to call me anyway.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Using Feedburner for Email Subscriptions

With my hybrid ENG102 course this semester, I'm using Feedburner for email subscriptions. Email subscriptions allow for students to subscribe to your blog and podcast feed, and everytime I post a new news post or podcast, subscribers (my students) get an email message with the information right in the email. All they have to do is click on the link to listen to the podcast, but for the news posts, they can read those right in the email message.

First you have to "burn your feed" at Feedburner. That process is a post in itself although it is very easy and free to do. I'll post about that later. But to set up the subscription, all I had to do was copy and paste the code generated by Feedburner into any web page. I put it in Blackboard. The subscription form will be automatically inserted each time the page is loaded. From there, readers can subscribe to receive daily email with my newest content.

So far I only have 9 subscribers via email, but two others have subscribed via iTunes and Yahoo! It is a great way for students to stay in touch with the course content. I have a weekly podcast for the hybrid course that is posted in Blackboard, but for students who don't want to be tied to Bb, they can use this new feature.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Registration Nightmare

So it's not a real nightmare, and it's probably only a problem for me, but the way GCC does registration in the first two weeks is crazy. I've dropped students and now I'm added students and it's only week 2. Here's the deal. The first day we get a list of rosters with a letter that says, "By Friday, August 25, report as a "no show" any student whose name appears on this roster and does not show up for class." By Friday? I'm thinking that's a bit early for dropping no shows, so I wait until Wednesday of this week, and I reported about 8 no shows. To tell the truth, I forgot to do it on Friday, so I did it on Wednesday. Anyway, I felt weird about it, and I hesitated at first. I said to myself, this is going to turn into a headache, I just know it.

So what happens yesterday, Thursday? I get an email with a message from a student looking for me. He wanted to know why he was dropped from my class. Then I got a phone call from another student wondering the same thing, then another email, and the kicker? Today I was taking role, and as I was reading through my old roster I read a name of a student that I had dropped two days before, and surprisingly a student raised his hand. What? I asked him, "Have you been in class before today?" His response, "Well, I think I missed a few days." A few days? How about the first 5. So off to registration I go to reinstate 4 students who decided they really did wanted to come to college after all.

I'm sure there is a good reason behind having faculty report "no shows" right away, but it can be a real hassle. I'm not sure what I would do if faced with this decision again. At SMC, we don't have to turn in "clean up" roster until after the 2nd week. I usually will let a student who wants to register for a full class in because I just know there will be no-shows. On a smaller scale I guess we can get away with that.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Well, Some Things Never Change

That's right. It doesn't matter where you teach, you will always be faced with apathy. That will never change. I'm here at GCC this semester hoping that my students here will be, not only better prepared, but better motivated to learn. Students motivated to learn will be anxious to do their assignments and the course reading, right? Okay, that's a big assumption, but it is one I was making. I asked my class of 23 ENG101 students if they had done the assigned reading for today. I said, "Be honest. Who didn't read the article?" All but one hand went up. Well, I'm hoping I missed a few as I observed, but it seemed as if the collective class raised hands in unison. I was shocked! That's exactly what would have happened at SMC. No different!

The irony in this whole situation concerns what it was the students were assigned to read, an article on the lack of student accountability in college courses. Now that's funny, don't you think? The article, titled "The Dea(r)th of Student Responsibility," by Holly Hassel and Jessica Lourey discusses a survey that was administered to about 1100 univesity students to determine their attitudes toward learning and accountability. Hassel & Lourey (2005) reveal that "Apathy, absenteeism, and grade inflation emerged as contributing to the lack of student accountability."

Hmmm... who'da thunk it? This is a great article, not necessarily for students, but most definitely for faculty and administrators. The article suggests that changes need to be made by the colleges and not necessarily the students. At both of my community colleges most changes suggested are already pretty much standard practice: absenteeism consequences, smaller, engaged classes and explicit expectations. The article was good for students because they can see that there is a problem and that community colleges are already doing quite a bit to curb the problem. All that's left is up to them. Now the question is: How do I get them to read it?

Hassel, Holly and Jessica Lourey (2005). The Dea(r)th of student responsibility. College Teaching, 53 (1): 2-13.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Survey Says...

Okay, you probably can't read that graphic, but what it says is the big reason why I'm over here at GCC for the semester. I surveyed my two ENG102 classes on their computer usage, and 42 of the 48 students responded. Eighty-three percent responded that they have a PC at home to use and 7.1% have a Mac at home for use. That's 90%! All but two have a computer at home. That's a major difference from students at SMC. When I surveyed my students last year, less than half had computers at home to use, and even fewer than that had internet access.

Internet access among my GCC students is 83.3% with high speed internet and 11.9% with dialup access. Once again, only 2 didn't have internet access at home. That's amazing to me coming from SMC were our students don't have these resources. I'll share more on these survey results later.

Photos Finally

Okay, I'm back in business when it comes to photos. I was a bit of trouble with finding cameras and being able to download, but I've got it all figured out now. Earlier I talked about wearing my new GCC ID bad around campus, so here it is.

And this is the new computer I found in my office.

I'll continue to upload more photos from my "Switch Experience" on Flickr.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Got a PC Today, So Bye Bye Wireless

Today when I walked into my office there was a fancy looking PC case glowing on my desk. Nancy's old G4 was still there, but this pretty little thing was a welcomed addition. There was no monitor or keyboard or mouse attached, and at first I wasn't even sure it was a computer. I'll have to show you a picture so you can see what I'm talking about. It's sweet!

Anyway, Joseph returned while I was there to finish the job he had started while I was in class. He brought all the accessories and got me all hooked up. Now I have fast access to the internet from a plugged in line. I guess I have Netscape email as well, even though I tried to tell him that I probably wouldn't use it. I get Maricopa mail through my Yahoo! account. Who knows I might try the GCC way a few times. My peeps at SMC use Outlook for their email, and I am not the one to make a comparison. All I know is we used to use Netscape and switched.

I probably could have gotten away with not having a PC in my office, but the one thing I was so excited about having, I'm just about over already after only a week. That is the wireless access. I still think it's a great tool to have available, but if you have to rely on it for your only access, it doesn't cut the mustard. It's spotty and cuts in and out. Most surprisingly is it's an open network, so it's not secure. I have to remember to not do anything that is private. Oh wait, that's oh, only about 70% of what I do on the internet. I'm not really sure how all the security stuff works, so I'm going to have to explore this wireless/network thing further.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

GCC Parking Lot One Big Lake

This morning when I got to GCC for my 8:30am class, it was pouring rain and the parking lot was holding about an inch to two inches of water. There was not a dry spot to be found. I thought I would luck out and park up close in the employee parking area, but no such luck this morning. I had to park in the north forty. What a hike that was, and I was pretty soaked by the time I made it to class. This is one of the differences between GCC and SMC. No, not that I have to park out in the north forty, but that there is any designated faculty parking at all.

At SMC we don't have a faculty or employee parking area. All the lots are first come, first serve. We actually had a debate about this a few years back. SMC feels that the student is the customer and they should have full access to prime parking spots before any faculty or employee. By not designating areas, everyone has a fair shot at not having to tromp through a rain storm in 1 inch of water.

Monday, August 21, 2006

All Hands on Deck

The first day of the semester at GCC was a buzz. There are so many people walking around; it really has a big school feel. I managed to find all of my classes, which were not conveniently located close to one another. There were lots of faculty and employees out on campus wearing their GCC badges and giving out directions. I discreetly tucked my badge to the side and scooted across campus. I didn't want to let any one down by having to tell them I have no clue where such and such building is. Heck, I'm trying to find my own classes. It will be at least a week before I figure it all out and can give directions. By then everyone will already know there way around campus.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Not Much Going On

I had to stop by SMC today to do a few things and to help out a fellow colleague with some new technology. So I did the drive. There was not much going on when I got there. That is one major difference between the two colleges. GCC has a whole menu of activities and events scheduled for just about every minute of the week of accountability. I mean they have so much that much of it overlaps. I mean I was in a quandry today. Do I go to the new president's welcome or do I go to new employee mentors meeting? What I really wanted to do was just get my classes ready for Monday, but all the activities were tempting.

I think that is pretty much SMC's philosophy: week of accountability is for getting your courses ready because, like I said, there was not much going on there today. I couldn't find Carole to help her with the new technology in TC157, so I went up to visit Amy and Karen in the TLC. Not a sole was in the place. There was training scheduled, but I guess no one felt like they needed it. So I was able to chat with them for a bit and do a little work on my Blackboard courses before I left.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

They Have Everything!

Today I attended the Best Practices and Strategies for Student Learning & Success Poster Sessions at GCC. It was held in the High Tech II building and had an interesting mixtures of sessions. I ran into an old colleague from my high school teaching days at Deer Valley when I went to learn more about the student mentoring program they have at GCC. I also popped into a brief presentation on Student Services available for students and tips for how to help them. My last stop was a presentation on wikis by Karen Schwalm. I'd been waiting to meet her since she is one of the reasons I wanted to come over to GCC. I'd heard she was doing some amazing things with technology in her courses, and she teaches English as well.

We were able to chat for a while and Karen shared with me some of the things she's working on now at GCC, specifically the new school wiki. The most amazing thing I learned is that GCC has purchased enterprise software for many of the tools that I have to go out onto the free web to use outside of my school setting. These things include webpage/server space, wikis, blogs, and a chat program. They have everything, all installed on their own servers. It's amazing. I have none of that at SMC. None. Zip. Nada!

So I spend about $160 a year on server space for my many webpages and blogs, both personal and professional, $100 a year on two wikis, but chat is free! I used Adium and Meebo for chat, .Mac and SiteGround for hosting, all the available blog services: Blogger, Wordpad, and Typepad, and pbwiki and WetPaint for wikis. What fun it is.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Faculty Convocation at SMCC

Monday I was required to attend the All Employee Convocation at SMCC instead of at GCC. I didn't mind that I was asked to do this, but was a bit puzzled. So I showed up at the PAC and sat with the rest of my fellow faculty members and listened to the program. I guess we are a few years out from our 10 year accreditation visit, and there are things we need to be doing. We were given a timeline, but nothing specific was discussed. Our guest speaker was from a community college in Ohio.

We moved over to the student union for lunch, where Dr. Garrison had his improvisation band playing jazz for our enjoyment. And after lunch we told stories. Not sure what that was all about, but it was interesting to hear all the stories. I really need to find out what the point in all that was. I thought we were going to do something related to our accreditation visit. Hmmm... maybe we did. I'll never know because I'm not over there for a while.

I picked up my computer, which Delbert worked dilegently to repair for me, and headed home. What a day.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

New Employee Orientation

I was asked to attend the new employee orientation over at GCC on Friday. This of course is one day before our week of accountability starts, so I thought it was an odd request. But given the list of activities GCC has planned for week of accountability, I can see why they needed to add this day. I was a bit hesitant to attend because technically I'm not a new employee, just new to GCC. I decided I would go because, if anything, it would give me a chance to learn my way around the campus. I always seem to get turned around when I'm over there. It's huge compared to South (SMCC).

Nancy did not get an invitation to a new employee orientation over at SMCC, so she asked me to come down and show her around and get all set up with her office, phone, email, and computer. A one stop stop to the CTS where Debra and Heather handled all her needs right there on the spot was all she needed. I wasn't as lucky when it came to claiming my computer from SMC, but that's another story.

So on Friday, I attended this orientation at GCC, and right off I was asked to fill out a time card so I would be paid for my time. Awesome. I would have done it for free. We were served drinks and muffins for breakfast and were introduced to a few deans, a vice president academic affairs and the new president of the college. It was a very impressive group. The whole time I was thinking, "deans? I didn't think anyone had deans anymore." At South our deans were moved to vice presidents, and as far as I know we don't have any deans. And when we looked at GCC's organizational chart, I noticed they have department chairs and a bunch of division chairs. There were just too many people to keep track of. The chain of command must be a nightmare.

The day proved to be useful because most of the information was specific to the campus, including a tour of the important buildings and people we would need to work with. We got our ID badges, keys, and a folder full of information. We visited the library and High Tech buildings and met all the techy people inside, Training Center, Innovation Center, and the newly created Faculty Connection Center. What a wonderful place that will be.