Sunday, July 7, 2013

I dropped out of grad school and don't know if I am going back

The following is a post that I wrote in anger one evening after dropping out of my grad school courses. I have 3 classes to go for the level I was working on and have not gone back. I am starting to get the urge again so maybe. Here is that post and hopefully if you are teaching online courses you might think about some of these things.

I dropped out of my grad school class. It was a tough decision but I had enough. I am not looking for sympathy and I am not here to throw anyone under the bus. My hope is to inform you of some of the things I felt were lacking in this program. I would like to think people I hang with would not do this if they were online teachers or even teachers in a live classroom. If this causes you to think about how you do things, then I have done my job. I felt there were mistakes on three sides of this equation, the university's, the professor's and my own.
Me - Last year I sat out of grad school for a year due to health and medical procedure reasons. I am also an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. Along with that I am a high school director of technology, and many of you know my wife Diane. I came to the grad school table with a lot on my plate as so many of us have and yet I thought I could handle it. I was frustrated for most of this semester as I didn't feel I was doing a good job. I like to do a good job.
The University - I don't know what the situation was that brought the University to hire this professor, but I would venture a guess that they were in need of a teacher, they found someone willing to handle an online course that is a core requirement, and with little to no training they tossed the professor in to the deep end of the pool. The university also switched from an online form that they had been using and went to a new system right before the new semester and everyone was scrambling to make it work.
The Professor - With a new PhD and trying to get hired on, the professor said yes to a core course, yes to a new program, yes to an online class and in all likelihood, yes I will figure it out. The first week the recorded lecture video was off. We could only see 1/4 of the screen material. The professor sent us the slides at least so we did have those. One lesson had the same word misspelled throughout the entire slide presentation.
Over the next 8 weeks there was confusion as to where to post things, we were told either the discussion board or the dropbox. I found out later that the professor thought they were both the same thing. I looked for feedback other than from other students in the class who were doing the best they could, but only got one line of feedback in the second week of class. I kept looking for grades in the gradebook, but the only thing there were asterisks and possible points. By the end of the semester, I would have read about 1000 pages, 20 other posts from 20 classmates each week, answered 10-12 weeks of discussion questions on my own as well as written about what new insghts I had that week, listened to an average of 60-90 minutes of lecture online each week, leading up to a major paper, a major reflective essay and a cumulative final exam. I am sorry but rigor - mortis has set in my posterior.
If you are a university, I hope you give your professors all of the help, support and training that they need. If you are a professor, I hope you aren't afraid to ask for help, are willing to give feedback and can get by on fewer than 6 textbooks in a semester and especially for an online course. I also hope you are willing to help your students seek deeper and more relevant thinking. And don't forget to give feedback, feedback, feedback. If you are planning to be the student, make sure you know full well what you are getting in to, I thought I did, but there is also life to live as well.

So much to still try and learn and so little time.

ISTE 2013 - Some Retrospect

I want tho thank the folks at ISTE for once again bringing together so many people that continue to help advance my education, knowledge and inspire me to continue doing what I do for the students I come in contact. I am wondering if the show has gotten too large.

Vendors - I was worn out both physically and sensorially by the vendor area. The sights and the sounds were to the point of being overwhelming. Even with a map I had some difficulty finding the vendors I needed to speak with, and yet in the Bloggers's cafe and the ISTE Newbie lounge I had less trouble finding vendors and or people willing to pitch their products or their printed paraphernalia without an invitation. These areas need to be used by the people who they are intended for and not by the vendors. If I am not mistaken, there is a vendors lounge and most vendors also have areas to meet people and work on deals. I hope someone can get a handle on that.

I know that without vendors it is difficult to make this show happen. Everyone wants to make money and no one is in it to lose money. So I truly understand the need for vendors to be present, but because they pay for the privilege, that doesn't mean they can run over folks in different areas. Even in the HackEd unconference on Saturday, people had to be reminded that they could not hawk their own products during the smack down.

What would the difference in the conference have been if instead of 10,000 Surface tablets, Microsoft were to offer 5,000 teachers an opportunity for conference attendance and some money toward room and board while in San Antonio? Would that have been beneficial to some of the school districts or even our student's classrooms? How many vendors that are Tier 1 Sponsors are ever asked to do this? Might be a thought for future ISTE events. That idea came up in the comments section of Lee Kolbert's blog about ISTE found here.

I am still mulling around some other things and hopefully I can get to them soon before this old mind loses them. So happy to see so many good people, have so many great discussions and be able to laugh and share as well as cry with so many of you.

So much to learn and so little time.